Oxford Bus Company to end PickMeUp trial

Oxford Bus Company will withdraw its experimental PickMeUp demand responsive minibus service after operation on Saturday 20 June, ending its two-year trial of what it hoped might become a viable commercial operation.


In a statement issued yesterday afternoon, the Go-Ahead Group subsidiary says: “The decision was not taken lightly. We worked hard to establish the service and has exhausted all external funding avenues to make it viable.


PickMeUp was launched in June 2018 as the largest service of its kind in the UK to improve connectivity in the eastern arc of Oxford by complementing traditional bus routes. It enabled passengers in eastern Oxford to summon buses to pick them up on a street corner of their choice, to go to a bespoke destination. More than 38,000 people downloaded the app and more than 300,000 journeys were made on the service. However, the service did not reach the commercial milestones required to make it sustainable beyond the two-year pilot, even though not all demand could be met.


Oxford Bus Company says it required third party support from local authorities and the business community to make PickMeUp viable as a three-way partnership. “Unfortunately, local authority support was not made available and passenger numbers could not reach required targets, as congestion slowed buses down to 9mph just at the time demand was at its greatest. While some businesses have been very supportive of the service, others decided not to support it as they did not see it as their responsibility to do so for the greater good of Oxford. We announced a review of the service and a customer survey six months ago and further explored all funding options but could not find a solution.


“We will be doing everything possible to minimise the impact on customers and colleagues. Any unused credit on customer accounts will be refunded after 20 June”


PickMeUp employs 25 people and Oxford Bus Company says it is actively seeking to redeploy them to other areas of the business where possible.


“We would like to thank everyone who has travelled with the PickMeUp service and our superb colleagues who have worked with us throughout the pilot scheme,” says managing director Phil Southall. “It is no reflection on their hard work that we have had to finish operating the service. We are also grateful to everyone who has travelled on the service. I’d also like to thank our corporate partner The Oxford Science Park for its steadfast financial and promotional support, and Horspath Parish Council.


“We are aware that we have many loyal customers who will be inconvenienced, and we are sorry it has not been possible to maintain the service. PickMeUp was a great innovation by Oxford Bus Company, but unfortunately we were left with no choice but to withdraw the service owing to unsustainable losses and not enough support coming forward. We feel that we have played our part in trying to provide an innovative solution for the City and launched PickMeUp in response to requests from local authorities and the business community to improve connectivity in eastern Oxford. However, regretfully the service did not receive the backing required to make it work long-term.


“We have taken a lot of learnings from PickMeUp and Go Ahead Group is looking to introduce the service in other areas of the country where it could prove to be more viable. We believe with the right support a ride sharing service can be part of the solution to reducing congestion, but at this stage it has not been successful in Oxford. This may change in the future if congestion management measures are introduced and a workplace parking levy could top up the funding required to make it work and reduce congestion so that more demand can be satisfied. Greater public sector support will be required if this is to come about.” 


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