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Demand responsive transport service launches for NHS Trust

The UK's first dedicated app-based demand responsive bus service for NHS workers is set to be launched this month for Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust.


Stagecoach is working in partnership with Nottinghamshire County Council, Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust and ViaVan, the company that provides digital infrastructure to power public mobility in cities across Europe, to launch the new Stagecoach Connect service.


The service will come into effect for a trial at King’s Mill Hospital in Sutton-in-Ashfield from Monday 18 May and is part of a trial of Demand Responsive Transport in Mansfield and Sutton.


Stagecoach, Britain's biggest bus and coach operator, is also involved in discussions with other NHS Trusts, including in Humberside, about the roll out of a similar service.


Stagecoach’s customised travel solution, branded as Stagecoach Connect, was developed from concept to delivery with ViaVan in just two weeks to help NHS employees access hospitals and other key workplaces in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.


The service at King’s Mill Hospital will operate early in the morning and late evening hours, an expansion from the existing fixed line service which is focused on creating access for healthcare workers during additional shift patterns. In this way those key workers do not have to worry about a tired drive home or finding a car parking space during busy times.


Stagecoach Connect is a digitally powered transport service that enables NHS workers to get to-and-from work with ease and in comfort. Through the use of a mobile app, powered by ViaVan’s technology for demand-responsive transport, healthcare workers are able to track the location of their bus, change or cancel a booking, and pre-book up to one week in advance to match upcoming shift schedules. They will select a desired pick-up and drop-off location, and will be matched with a seat in a high-capacity bus that is fully compliant with public health guidelines for social distancing. The technology will direct healthcare workers to a nearby ‘virtual bus stop’ for pickup, allowing for quick and efficient shared trips without lengthy detours, fixed routes or schedules.


The new demand responsive service is part of the emergency scheduled bus network currently in place for key workers being provided by Stagecoach and other bus operators around the country.


As the country looks to move out of lockdown, Stagecoach is working with industry partners and the government on the measures needed to support Britain’s most important mode of public transport, and on the steps to keep people safe and reassured. The company also understands that the NHS needs a more tailored solution to deliver better employee transport. 


Stagecoach Chief Executive Martin Griffiths says: “We firmly believe that demand responsive transport, backed up by an easy technology solution, has huge potential right across the NHS and for other major organisations seeking a better and more sustainable solution to crowded car parks and unnecessary ‘single use’ polluting car trips.


"As we come out of lockdown into our new normal, we are looking at how this type of service can support the public and private sector in getting back on its feet, and helping communities across the country recover.”


Ben Widdowson, Associate Director for Estates and Facilities for Sherwood Forest Hospitals, welcomed the new service. He says: “I would like to thank Stagecoach for their work on this app; I think it will really help colleagues who need to use public transport at this difficult time. It is great that we have been able to work together to find a solution to keep our staff who need to use public transport as safe as possible.”