Stagecoach Connect DRT launches to serve NHS staff

Stagecoach Connect, an app-based demand responsive transport (DRT) service will be launched by Stagecoach East Midlands on Monday 18 May. It is for Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust and will serve King’s Mill Hospital in Sutton-in-Ashfield.

An app, powered by ViaVan’s technology platform, allows NHS staff to book a ride up to one week in advance to match their shift schedules.

They will select a desired pick-up and drop-off location and be matched with a seat in what Stagecoach says is “a high capacity bus”. Users will be required to show their NHS identity card to prove they are eligible to use the service.

The group says it could also be rolled out to serve the NHS in other parts of the UK. Stagecoach is already in discussions with other NHS Trusts, including in Humberside, about introducing similar services.

Stagecoach Connect is part of a trial of DRT in Mansfield and Sutton in Ashfield, the group adds. It has been taken from concept to reality in just two weeks as part of Stagecoach’s response to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic

The DRT service will operate during early morning and late evening hours. It acts as an expansion of Stagecoach’s existing fixed-route provision. The focus is on creating access for those NHS staff who are working additional shift patterns.

Stagecoach Chief Executive Martin Griffiths says the group believes that DRT has “huge potential across the NHS and other major organisations that are seeking a better and more sustainable solution to crowded car parks and unnecessary single-use car trips.”

Mr Griffiths adds that as movement restrictions are eased, Stagecoach is looking at how DRT can support both the public and the private sectors as they return to work and how it can help communities.

In February, Stagecoach launched the Tees Flex DRT. It is operated with a fleet of Mercedes-Benz Sprinter minibuses on a three-year pilot.

ViaVan also provided the technology platform for Tees Flex. CEO Chris Snyder believes that public transport will be “at a crossroads” after the pandemic, and that will offer an opportunity for a new look at how it works in the future.