MK Connect pilot scheme aims to test faster journeys

MK Connect

On the third anniversary of MK Connect, Milton Keynes City Council’s award-winning on-demand transportation initiative, the city council has announced a pilot scheme to test public appetite for shorter rural waiting times made possible by zoning the service.

The pilot scheme is due to start on Monday 8 April and will run for six months. During the pilot, most MK Connect vehicles will be restricted to one of three zones, rather than covering the whole city. This avoids situations where for instance a driver drops off one passenger in the south such as in Bletchley then immediately collects another in the north such as in Olney.

Some passengers who travel from rural northern areas of Milton Keynes currently have to wait up to 70 minutes to be collected. The city council hopes by zoning the service, rural wait times can be reduced by more than three quarters – aiming for 15 minutes or faster.

The city council estimates that most journeys made during the pilot will remain within one zone, which means passengers won’t need to change vehicle. However, a passenger whose journey takes them out of their pick-up zone may be asked to change, either to another MK Connect vehicle or to a bus if the journey follows an existing bus route. Changes won’t be needed when bus services are less frequent, such as on Sundays or after 7pm.

Passengers who are asked to change vehicle will only be charged for one leg of their trip, so they won’t pay more than they usually do.

More than 1.1m trips have been taken on MK Connect since it was introduced three years ago. The city council operates a fleet of 24 seven-seater vehicles, which local people can book on an app or by phone, before sharing their journey with other passengers going in the same direction. The green initiative, which is the largest of its kind in the UK, has won several awards including a ‘Best Public Transport’ transport industry award.

“We’re running this pilot to check whether people prefer faster collections or the convenience of one vehicle, and we’re doing it for six months so all passengers can give it a robust test. What people tell us will help determine how we organise MK Connect in the future. MK Connect can be real lifeline so it’s important we get everyone’s informed feedback to help us make fair decisions.”
- Cllr Jennifer Wilson-Marklew, Cabinet Member for Public Realm at Milton Keynes City Council