Whim under the spotlight as MPs visit West Midlands

The Whim app

Whim under the spotlight as MPs visit West Midlands

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street welcomed MPs on the Transport Select Committee to the region to host a meeting exploring the issue of Mobility as a Service (MaaS).

In keeping with the day’s agenda, MPs used the innovative mobility app Whim to travel to and from the venue at KPMG, One Snow Hill, by tram and taxi.

Whim is an all-in-one MaaS solution that is already being utilised in Helsinki and Amsterdam and is currently undergoing trials in Birmingham.

So far, the app can be used to plan a journey and buy National Express bus and metro tickets as well as ordering a taxi.

All of these services are currently available on a pay-as-you-go basis, with monthly plans set to be released in the near future.

Mr Street said: “The committee came here because the West Midlands was the first region in the UK to deliver Mobility as a Service - which is at the forefront of our work on transport innovation.

“We have worked very hard to create a collaboration of public and private sector transport partners, all playing to their various unique strengths to help deliver this service.”

The Mayor highlighted the joint commitment of all the WMCA’s constituent councils to supporting the MaaS agenda – which he said was critical to getting the programme off to such a good start.

He also said the engagement from business – largely via the Local Enterprise Partnerships – was key to the development of a regional economic plan, driving the work forward.

Discussions centred on the potential impact of MaaS on the economy, the threats and opportunities for conventional public and private transport operators, and the committee saw presentations from major bus operator National Express and car hire company, Enterprise.

Mike Waters, Transport for West Midlands’ (TfWM) director of policy, strategy and innovation, explained: “Whim could be thought of as similar to a ‘Netflix for transport’.

“Travellers pay for a complete transport service, normally through a phone-based app, to get tailored transport guidance and seamless access to bus, train, tram, cycle hire, car hire and taxi travel.”

TfWM’s head of transport innovation Chris Lane outlined the programme’s work and progress so far.

MaaS Global, who has led the way in shaping the Mobility as a Service agenda, demonstrated the features of the Whim app to MPs.

In the West Midlands, the MaaS solution has been delivered through partnership and co-operation and TfWM encouraged MaaS Global to set up its service business here in the West Midlands.

A roundtable discussion was led by the Select Committee chair Lilian Greenwood MP, supported by TfWM.

She said: “We have had a very valuable and informative session here, learning just how much is going into this work in the West Midlands.

“I think we have all found it hugely encouraging and will take very positive messages from today, which we can share for the benefit of similar projects around the country.”