The free shuttle bus service set up to ferry NHS staff in the West Midlands to hospital during the coronavirus lockdown has been used more than 10,000 times.
The West Midlands ring and ride minibuses were redeployed at the start of April and targeted at hospitals and care facilities where regular bus and rail services had been reduced.
Shuttle buses have been running from park and ride sites at Metro stops and railway station car parks to hospitals. The service has proved particularly popular with staff working at Good Hope Hospital in Sutton Coldfield, Wolverhampton’s New Cross Hospital and Walsall’s Manor Hospital.
Paul Jennings, NHS Birmingham and Solihull Sustainability and Transformation Partnership leader, said: “We are absolutely delighted that so many local NHS and care staff have been able to get to work during COVID-19, thanks to the shuttle bus service.
“This service was established to support our amazing staff to be able to get to work in a safe, efficient and convenient way, at a time when they are going above and beyond to help provide the best possible care for local people. We would also like to thank the bus drivers who have brought a smile to colleagues’ faces on their journeys and looked after our teams so well.”
Mayor of the West Midlands Andy Street said: “I am delighted that we have been able to help so many of our frontline NHS staff get to work during lockdown, especially at a time when regular public transport services were reduced.
“It meant that some hospital staff, who were busy dealing with the pandemic, did not have to worry about how they were getting to work every day. They’ve made a heroic effort during this crisis and this was one way we were able to offer practical help.”
TfWM is part of the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
Cllr Ian Ward, WMCA portfolio holder for transport and leader of Birmingham City Council, said: “TfWM has worked with transport operators to keep the network running throughout the outbreak to support our key workers and help those with no private transport to get their essential supplies.
“However, where there were gaps due to reductions in service, we have made good use of the ring and ride fleet to provide extra support and make journeys to work easier for NHS staff.”
The ring and ride minibus fleet, operated by National Express Accessible Transport (NEAT) under contract from Transport for West Midlands (TfWM) was able to be redeployed because the vast majority of its regular users did not need transport during lockdown.
The shuttle buses were targeted at locations as a supplement to regular public transport services or to make up the final part of a journey such as between Sutton Coldfield railway station and Good Hope Hospital. In some cases the minibuses needed to be pre-booked by staff.
Each minibus carries a maximum of two passengers to ensure social distancing is maintained. The shuttle buses will run until further notice.