The Oxford PickMeUp demand responsive transport (DRT) service ceased operation after completion of its two-year pilot scheme on Saturday 20 June – but it may later return in a revised form, operator Oxford Bus Company (OBC) has said.
A restart relies on the government’s Rural Mobility Fund. OBC has worked in partnership with Oxfordshire County Council to apply for a grant. If approved, it will enable PickMeUp to serve rural and suburban areas surrounding Oxford.
Among them would include some that do not currently have a bus service. Each zone would include a park-and-ride site as a ‘mobility hub’ for onward connections. PickMeUp would not serve Oxford city centre under the plans.
The new format would seek to improve connectivity to existing interurban bus corridors for rural and suburban communities and give them better access to employment hubs, shopping, healthcare and entertainment areas.
An application for Rural Mobility Fund money to allow PickMeUp to return in a revised form is among four Expressions of Interest submitted by Oxfordshire County Council to the Department for Transport. It hopes to access around £20m of funding for DRT.
Although the initial PickMeUp pilot proved commercially unsuccessful, Oxfordshire County Council says it believes that DRT has a future in the county. Yvonne Constance, Cabinet Member for Environment and Transport, adds that lessons learned from PickMeUp will be used to “help shape services to come.”
During its two-year pilot, PickMeUp carried over 300,000 passengers and saw its app downloaded more than 38,000 times. The minibuses used covered 950,000 miles. While it delivered improved connectivity in an eastern arc of Oxford, it was not sustainable without further outside funding.
OBC Managing Director Phil Southall has paid tribute to the staff involved with delivering the pilot. He adds that its termination “is no reflection on their hard work.”