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All aboard – call for volunteers as new transport app begins UK trials in the West Midlands

By Simon Penfold | Transport | Published:

A new integrated transport app that allows people to combine all their travel needs through their smartphone has started UK trials in the West Midlands.

Dubbed 'Whim' the app encourages people to use transport other than their private car by enabling them to pay for it over the course of a month, as they need it.

In the West Midlands, users will initially be able to travel on National Express West Midlands buses, Midland Metro trams and Gett taxi services on a pay-as-you-go basis.

The app will establish the best journey routes and deal with tickets and payments.

Whim is a collaboration between Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) – part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) – MaaS (Mobility as a Serve) Global of Finland, and transport companies such as National Express.

The app made its debut in Helsinki in autumn 2016 and the Midlands is the first area outside Finland to trial the system.

Users are now being sought to take part in the UK Beta release following its unveiling at the recent Bus & Coach show in Birmingham.

At this stage commuters need to apply via the Whim website but MaaS Global’s aim is to make the service freely available through the App Store and Google Play by the end of this year.

Sampo Hietanen, chief executive officer and co-founder of MaaS Global said: “We are really excited to launch Whim in the UK and could not have hoped for better partners with which to launch Whim in West Midlands.”

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“Our vision is to make transportation smarter to offer seamless mobility for all people with one service and a single monthly fee - and this way we can offer people a genuine and easy alternative to owning a car.”

“Public transportation is the backbone in realising this vision, and the extensive and comprehensive National Express bus network is a perfect fit. We challenge all of those who signed up for the service to start using it and experience how easy mobility can be.”

Wolverhampton council leader Councillor Roger Lawrence, lead member for transport for the WMCA, said: “Mobility as a Service makes the West Midlands attractive for both education, businesses and visitors and I very much hope this next stage of the project leads to its successful introduction as soon as is feasible.

“A lot of hard work by Whim and Transport for West Midlands has brought Mobility as a Service to this significant stage in the project and I congratulate everyone involved.

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"It is a huge step towards introducing the technology that will integrate all types of mobility choices and present them to the customer in a completely integrated manner that helps get them from A to B as smoothly as possible.”

Martin Hancock, development director for National Express West Midlands, said the collaboration signalled the company’s ambition to be on the forefront of new developments in the transport and mobility revolution.

“Intelligent mobile technology provides the ideal opportunity for passengers to trial and use our services,” he said.

“By increasing use of our buses, congestion will reduce and air quality improve making the cities and towns of the West Midlands even more attractive as places to live and invest in.”

For more details on how to apply to take part in the Whim pilot go to www.whimapp.com/uk

Simon Penfold

By Simon Penfold
Business Editor - @SPenfold_star

Business Editor based at the Express & Star's head office in Wolverhampton, looking for stories big & small.

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