Local people got their first glimpse of a WESTlink yesterday (Thursday, 16th March).
The bookable minibuses that will start connecting people in more remote areas to major transport routes next month. The bright green minibuses, which were taking part in testing, are three of what will eventually be a new thirty-strong fleet that residents in the West of England will be able to book by phone, online or with a dedicated app.
Metro Mayor Dan Norris has invested £3 million from the West of England Mayoral Combined Authority in the scheme, which will grow to become the largest of its kind anywhere in the country. He’s encouraging local people to "try something new and use WESTlink to connect to the rest of our amazing region,” when the bookable buses start rolling out across the West of England from April and across the summer months.
People in 'zones' across the region will soon see the bright green minibuses driving people to main route stops, with WESTlink and booking information painted clearly on the side.
WESTlink is a new stop-to- stop service from the Metro Mayor that will link people into the region’s key routes, so they can pick up another bus or train.
The service will roll out and improve gradually over time, looking carefully at what works in practice and what needs further improvement. People’s needs are at the heart of WESTlink's design. The technology behind WESTlink’s app will continually improve as it “learns” the type of journeys that are most popular right across the West of England.
In the first instance passengers will need to consult a bus or train timetable to check the best way to make an onward journey. Once the service has matured, the WESTlink app will be able to advise users on their whole journey from door-to-door. For people who prefer to use the phone, the booking phone service will provide them with the same level of detail.
On board, WESTlink will feature comfortable seats with headrests, have wheelchair access and spaces for passengers with prams or buggies, and for those with folding bikes.
The unveiling of the new vehicle design comes just weeks after Mayor Norris introduced a £7 million package of big bus improvements to add more traditional buses to routes that travel through the heart of areas that will have WESTlink.
Mayor Norris said:
“Stop-to-stop tailor-made travel is new for everyone. I am really pleased to see the first WESTlink bus, which is going into service from April and rolling out thereafter. I hope WESTlink buses become a familiar and welcome sight across our region. We will be adding more and more until we reach our first milestone of 30 full-time minibuses planned for later in the year. "This is a major investment for a key project. And it’s new to us all, so it certainly won’t be plain sailing. Undoubtedly things will go wrong, but we’re ready to learn as we go along. But I’m determined we get on and try something different, because the old solutions to our transport problems are not up to the challenges of the modern world post pandemic. For me, politics is the art of the possible delivering both for passengers of today as well as tomorrow. None of this will be easy, or quick, but I’m hugely proud to have secured this major multi-million-pound funding that gives us a unique opportunity to shape our transport future for the better. “As well as passengers who are willing to try something new, WESTlink will need more minibus drivers. The national and local shortage of drivers remains a major hurdle. While we are starting to see progress locally there is still a significant way to go. If you’re wondering about a career change, do get in touch to find out more."
He added, “I’m thrilled that here in the West of England, we’re aiming high and starting to roll out what will become the biggest scheme of its kind in the country. Let’s all pull together and make it the best scheme in the country too. I know we can. So when the time comes, please do join me on WESTLink. More news will follow soon!”
About sixty percent of trips to work in the region are currently made by car. WESTlink is part of a package of investment in public transport to both improve access and help us hit our ambitious 2030 net-zero carbon emissions target.