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New app to help improve number 33 March town bus service


New app to help improve number 33 March town bus service

Bus route 33A, the March town centre service, is the latest bus route to benefit from a new app which features real-time bus location data and optional advance booking. Local community transport charity FACT Community Transport and nemi, an app supporting flexible bus services, are extending their partnership following a successful launch last month on Wisbech’s bus route 68.

For those who wish to use it, the new digital features are available by downloading and registering for the nemi app, however, this is optional and users can use the service as normal. nemi is being developed in the UK as a partner in the GoAscendal Labs accelerator programme.

Route 33 was recently taken over by FACT following a tender process run by the Combined Authority to keep bus services going after Stagecoach East announced it was withdrawing the service along with 17 others across Cambridgeshire and Peterborough. Supported by GoAscendal Labs and Cambridgeshire & Peterborough Combined Authority, FACT is looking to retain this key local service, while using new technology to deliver a better experience to its passengers.

The nemi digital platform aims to create improved public transport services in rural areas, optimising distances travelled, lowering carbon emissions, and saving resources for public transport providers and time for users. In the first instance the app will enable FACT to easily measure the number of users on the service and give them the option to view the live location of the vehicle. After this initial period additional functionality may be added to support an improved service.

Together with FACT, the Combined Authority, nemi, and GoAscendal Labs hope to establish Cambridgeshire and Peterborough as a pioneer for digitising rural public transport, showcasing how it can be better designed and operated to provide an better service for users and increase passenger numbers. It is hoped that following these pilots, the digital enhancements can be extended more broadly to multiple services across the region, helping to transform the local bus network and improve the reliability of services for all.

GoAscendal Labs is supported with a Combined Authority Business Board investment of £965,000 from the Local Growth Fund, with the aim of both supporting greater innovation in transport and generating new business growth, jobs, and skills.

On successful completion of the programme, the technologies could be deployed in other places nationally and globally, with the hope many businesses may take advantage of Cambridgeshire as an emerging technology hub and set up operations there.

Gary Christy, Trustee and Chair of FACT said: “FACT is really glad to be continuing our relationship with nemi and GoAscendal Labs to explore new technologies which could play a part in providing a more efficient bus service. We hope in the upcoming months the changes made today and subsequent improvements through the app will have a positive impact on the community we serve.”

Alex Plant, Chair of the Combined Authority Business Board, said: “It is good to see the nemi app coming to another Cambridgeshire bus service, following its introduction to the Wisbech 68.

“The GoAscendal Labs programme, supported by the Business Board, is helping ambitious young businesses develop new innovations in transport. New technology is one of the ingredients we need to make public transport easier to use, more affordable and more accessible. With its mix of cities, market towns and rural villages, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough creates a complex blend of transport demand. That makes our area a great place to test new products and services that can improve journeys. I’m delighted to see this app coming on stream, and anticipate many more innovations coming out of this very exciting transport accelerator programme.”

Jenny Millard, the Programme Lead from GoAscendal Labs said: “It’s really great to see FACT seeing the benefits of the nemi app for its operations. These partnerships demonstrate the impact that can be made when operators and technology companies work together to provide solutions which will improve services for the end user. We are interested in hearing from other Community Transport or Commercial operators who are interested in how the product can support their organisation.”

Headquartered in Barcelona, nemi brings its transport technology services to the Cambridgeshire area as part of their participation in GoAscendal Labs; a transport technology accelerator programme.

GoAscendal Labs, which launched in early 2022, is co-located with local bus operator, Whippet Coaches, at its depot in Swavesey. It is soon to start its second programme and aims to support the development of innovative companies with new technologies to improve mobility in the region, including public transport, cycling, and walking. The innovations covering different aspects of transport operations, public safety and security, driver behaviour and electrification, support reduced carbon emissions, pollution, and congestion, and improving the transport experience across a region of more than 850,000 residents.

The idea is to develop, test, and bring to market the new products and services whilst being trialled in and around the surrounding areas of Cambridgeshire – each programme starting one after the other with different companies to bring multiple opportunities to progress their products and services in the UK.