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Campbeltown-based bus company West Coast Motors has joined forces with two other organisations to offer safe, door-to-door travel for people in rural areas who need to attend Covid-19 vaccination appointments.
The family-run bus firm has partnered with The Routing Company, a routing and management platform, and the Highlands and Islands Transport Partnership (HITRANS) to launch an on-demand, app-enabled transport service to make it easier for members of the public across Argyll and Bute to attend vaccination appointments.
The service, operated by West Coast Motors and powered by The Routing Company, is available from Monday to Friday, from 8.30am to 5.30pm.
Transport is summoned using The Routing Company’s ‘Pingo app’ which is available via the App Store on iOS devices or on Google Play on Android devices.
Alternatively, people can call the Pingo help desk on 0141 370 9262, with journeys costing £2 but free for card concession holders.
The service came about as a result of the Scottish Government’s CivTech 5.0 Programme.
Sponsors HITRANS laid down the challenge of devising a project which could transform the future of rural transport.
Transport and connectivity are big issues for people in the Highlands and Islands, which covers almost 50 per cent of Scotland’s landmass but has only 10 per cent of its population.
The problem is that while people living in dispersed rural areas rely on a good transport network to access key services, the financial sustainability for companies of providing regular services is a ‘significant challenge’ because traditional models are based on large demand which can be lacking in most rural areas.
The challenge was to create a system that met the needs of users, calculated and understood travel patterns and addressed cost efficiencies and long-term viability.
Ranald Robertson, partnership director of HITRANS, said: ‘We are delighted to launch this service with West Coast Motors to provide safe travel for members of the public to reach vaccination appointments alongside trips currently not served by public services.’
Colin Craig, managing director of West Coast Motors, said: ‘By using this technology, we can improve the use of existing vehicle fleets, which will help to reduce costs, widen coverage, and better understand interactions between different transport services.
‘In addition, the trial could be expanded to accommodate winter flu vaccination appointments to ensure safe and efficient transport to the public to these vital services.’
James Cox, CEO of The Routing Company, said: ‘We are thrilled that our technology and partnership with HITRANS and West Coast Motors will help make it easier for members of the public to access life-saving vaccines. We look forward to building on this partnership in the weeks and months to come.’
The Routing Company will now work with HITRANS and West Coast Motors to develop a better understanding of how people and goods move within the Highlands and Islands.
The trial is the first in what is expected to be a longer term partnership between The Routing Company and HITRANS focused on the transport needs of the Highlands and Islands.
Mr Robertson concluded: ‘We are delighted that the first use of this solution is supporting members of the public to travel safely to their vaccination appointments, and we look forward to rolling out the driver app and data dashboard across other areas in the Highlands and Islands over the coming months.’