More than 30 years after the first urban minibus revolution, Stagecoach relaunched the concept for a modern age on 12 February, with 30 Little & Often-branded Mercedes- Benz Sprinters on high-frequency routes in Ashford, Kent.
If this pilot is successful, it says the service — using 17-seat City 45 Sprinters in a silver-based livery — may be rolled out across the UK.
Frequency on the routes increases from three to 12 buses an hour, with minibuses timetabled to run up to every 5min between 06.00 and 23.00, with comprehensive links to Ashford railway station and the high-speed service to London St Pancras.
Stagecoach hopes that it will be able to attract rail commuters on to the minibuses, which are equipped with high-backed e-Leather seats, as well as generate business from leisure travellers.
Besides cash, passengers will be able to pay on the buses using contactless debit and credit cards, Apple Pay and Android Pay.
‘This is an exciting new travel option for customers and once again demonstrates our commitment to innovation and trying different things to help deliver even better services for passengers, ’ says Stagecoach UK Bus managing director Bob Montgomery, who 30 years ago helped set up United Transport’s Bee Line Buzz minibus service in Manchester.
‘We know convenience is key in modern day life. None of us wants to wait longer than we have to for anything. This new turnup- and-go product will free up more time for customers and provide them with the reassurance that there will always be another bus along in a matter of minutes.’
■ More in BUSES next month