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Mobility innovation

Buses and coach in The High, Oxford - which is car-free except for licensed taxis.

Mobility in cities was a core part of our recent discussions at our London City Hall forum in June, where Go-Ahead Group's Head of Public Affairs Gavin Bostock talked about the bus trials that are taking place in Southampton and Oxford.

Cleaning air as buses move through Southampton has proved a success with toxins being absorbed at a rate of just one bus drawing 65g of particulates from the air over 100 days. The trial which launched in September 2018, saw Go-Ahead subsidiary Bluestar operating the bus mounted with a unique filter cleaning 3.2 million cubic metres of the city's air.

Meanwhile Go-Ahead's demand-responsive bus service - the largest in the UK - 'PickMeUp' is turning out to be a welcome step towards combatting loneliness and congestion in Oxford. More than 140,000 rides over the last year, at an average of almost 4,000 every week have been taken up by the 25,000 passengers who have downloaded the app and registered to travel across Oxford. The service allows passengers to summon a bus to their location on-demand using their smartphone, cutting congestion and offering a more environmentally friendly transport solution than high numbers of low-occupancy cars. Gavin commented that the service, although successful, needs far more financial support from government, city authorities and business to expand nationally.

So much of the argument around mobility and pollution in our cities continues to concentrate on the growth of electric vehicle infrastructure and whether the UK government is providing enough incentives to push EV sales. Some pressure groups say however that it will take more than a focus on electric vehicles to reduce the pernicious effect of the 'car' on cities.

The BBC reports that Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is 'investing hundreds of millions of pounds to build a range of electric vehicles at its Castle Bromwich plant in Birmingham'. The news follows JLR saying in January that it would cut 4,500 jobs, the majority in the UK.

However The Centre for Research into Energy Demand Solutions (CREDS) has produced a report stating that the UK government is not doing enough to encourage a healthy lifestyle with walking and cycling and to follow the example set by the young in cities who are choosing not to buy cars. It warns that 'electrifying cars will not address traffic jams, urban sprawl and wasted space for parking' (BBC).

Sustrans London Director, Matt Winfield attended our June forum and asked 'Are cities doing enough to combat the obesity crisis by putting a focus on cycling and walking?' Milton Keynes Head of Transport, Steve Hayes responded by saying that the city was now working on a scheme to give priority to bike users and pedestrians, which he said was a good example of how far this 'city of the car' had come in recent years. However he warned that Milton Keynes' cycling infrastructure had not been well-used to-date.

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