A new era of transportation is about to begin in the West Midlands, which will become the first region in the UK to pilot a Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) system for its residents.
The pioneering service will be launched in the West Midlands metropolitan area in early 2017, using the Whim smartphone application that was developed by the Finnish originators of the MaaS concept, MaaS Global. The launch follows a freshly signed memorandum of understanding (MoU) by the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), transportation service providers National Express and SilverRail, Birmingham City Council, and MaaS Global. Other transport companies will be welcomed into the Whim service in the future.
The MaaS concept provides people’s daily mobility needs with a single service, which can be used either on a subscription or pay-as-you-go basis. In the West Midlands, MaaS could transform how over 5.5 million people get from A to B, including commuters in Britain’s second most populous city, Birmingham.
The world’s first capital region MaaS service is already in operation in Helsinki, Finland, where MaaS Global has launched the Whim mobile app, initially for a limited group of test users. Whim, which will be released in Birmingham and the West Midlands metropolitan area in spring 2017, will integrate public transport, rental cars, taxis, trains, bikes and other mobility services to take people from ‘door-to-door’ as easily as possible. It has proven immensely popular in Finland, with a growing list of users on the waiting list prior to next year’s full public launch. The new UK MoU commits all the signed parties to develop MaaS in the West Midlands region, with a shared goal to build an attractive, comprehensive, and convenient service, with long-term viability.
“This is an incredibly exciting location for us to start our first international operation,” said Kaj Pyyhtiä (above right), the co-founder and chief customer experience officer of MaaS Global, who sees enormous potential in the region. “With their open and forward looking approach, Transport for West Midlands, and local transport service providers from National Express and SilverRail, to Enterprise Holdings’ car rental brands, are the true enablers of bringing MaaS to the UK. The ongoing support of the Transport Systems Catapult has also been invaluable; we simply couldn’t have found better partners.”
Councilor Roger Lawrence, lead member for transport for the WMCA, see MaaS as a great idea to encourage people to consider how they get about other than with the private car. Lawrence noted, “Mobility-as-a-Service can transform how people get about this region, and by doing so help free up our roads and tackle the scourge of congestion, which costs this region billions of pounds a year.”