Transport for West Midlands are working with a technology provider to investigate ways they can make travelling across the regime in different types of transport a seamless experience.
The West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) has ambitions, as set out in the Strategic Economic Plan, to transform the regional economy by 2030 with 20,000 more businesses than now, 500,000 new jobs and a larger housing stock of 1.9 million homes. Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) is the transport arm of the WMCA.
The second Devolution Deal between Government and West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), agreed in November 2017, reflects the further transfer of powers and resources to a body at the heart of a region responsible for almost a third of all new private sector jobs in the UK over the last 12 months.
The deal recognises that the region is outperforming others in terms of start-ups and economic growth, and lays the foundations to further improve this performance. In the Deal Government has explicitly recognised that the West Midlands Combined Authority and partners have demonstrated clear ambition and innovative thinking on Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS). Government is seeking to support this ambition by:
- sharing best practice through a discussion on the development of innovative Mobility as a Service programmes, such as Whim, in order to advance our shared drive to explore future connected transport options
- exploring the possibility of a regulatory framework to open up transport data access
- convening future discussions on MaaS in the West Midlands, including exploring non-legislative opportunities to improve services for customers across the region.
The WMCA’s ‘2026 Delivery Plan for Transport’ provides a clear view of what transport initiatives and schemes the WMCA will deliver by 2026 - in line with “Movement for Growth”- the West Midlands Strategic Transport Plan. MaaS forms a clear game changing part of the plan. Developing MaaS and facilitating a commercial exploitation potentially allows WMCA to address a number of significant challenges the West Midlands are facing from network resilience and supports the development of the West Midlands as a centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles.
Whim, the MaaS App provided by MaaS Global in the West Midlands, provides access to train, tram, bus, taxi, cycle hire, car hire and parking. For Consumers Whim provides a personalised service which is easy to use. Whim’s goal is to offer personalised packages based on a service offering and not on a mix of ticketing products, for example getting you to and from work on time. This gives Whim customers the best price for that service and the most efficient use of their time. Whim removes the hassle of having to piece together all the elements of you journey, giving easy access to all transport modes through a simple and convenient payment.
As more people use Whim and similar products in the West Midlands we expect to see an increase in cost and logic based consumer choices which more closely link to conventional models for transport productivity and GVA impacts. More reliable and predictable journeys for people and businesses mean fewer lost productive time.
How is the new approach being sustained?
If successful the new app could become a commercial proposition and help boost public transport patronage. This would in turn help boost the revenues of TfWM as well as providing a host of spin off benefits including reductions in congestion and emissions as well as much more accurate real time travel information which could be used to optimise transport networks.
Whim itself is a new business and public transport operators see this as a genuine opportunity to acquire new customers, which is critically important in an environment of declining bus patronage. Whim provides feedback to transport operators on their customers which will help them manage their operations more efficiently, putting the right services where they are needed.
TfWM have led the way with MaaS in the UK, but we know we do not have all the answers and we continue to work with UK, European and International partners on the development of an open MaaS eco-system. Other traditional industries outside transport have been changed beyond recognition by the mobile digital revolution. For example, the near overnight challenge to the Blockbuster business model of renting videos that came from on-line streaming solutions. Now is the time for the digital transport revolution. Transport is a central enabler at the centre of everybody’s lives, MaaS has the potential to be at the centre of a dramatic change in our society which is closely aligned with a shift to other ‘as a Service’ consumer solutions and growth in a sharing economy.