UK: An on-demand bus service is set to launch in the south London borough of Sutton on May 28.

GoSutton is a joint project by Transport for London, the ViaVan joint venture of Mercedes-Benz Vans and on-demand transport technology company Via, and contracted bus operator Go-Ahead. TfL selected Sutton for the trial as the borough has relatively high car use for Greater London, and it is hoped that the on-demand service may attract people who would otherwise use cars.

The buses will operate seven days a week from 06.30 until 21.30, serving anywhere within a defined area which includes the main station and the St Helier and Royal Marsden hospitals. The buses are is expected to be particularly popular amongst people with reduced mobility who might currently find it difficult to access their nearest bus stop or station. An expansion east to other areas of the borough is planned for later in the year if the service proves a success.

A dedicated fleet of eight Mercedes-Benx Sprinter minibuses has been acquired for the service. These feature wi-fi and at-seat USB sockets. There is space onboard for 13 passengers including one wheelchair or mobility scooter user; standing passengers will not be carried.

The service can be used by anyone, with vehicles being shared by people travelling in similar directions. Passengers use an iPhone or Android app to book their ride, or alternatively can book by telephone or SMS. The operator’s computer system will then calculate which is the optimal bus to send, dynamically routing vehicles while taking into account the current passengers’ destinations.

The aim is to reach passengers within 10 min of booking. Services will operate from ‘corner to corner,’ with no fixed routes or bus stops. The aim is to pick up and drop off passengers within 200 m of their requested spot.

There is a flat fare of £3·50, and additional passengers can be added to a booking for £2 each. Payment is by bank card through the app, and because travel must be booked there is no means of fare collection onboard the vehicles; Oyster cards and contactless payment are not accepted. Cancellation is free within 1 min of booking, otherwise there is a £2 administration charge.

Children under 13 must be accompanied, while those aged 13 to 16 need their own accounts. Holders of English bus passes can register for free travel, and holders of London Freedom Passes can obtain free travel by entering their Oyster card number into the app.

The trial is set to run for an initial 12 month period, and if successful the service could become permanent and expanded into other areas.