As a proud Worcestershire lad, I’m happy to see that the UK’s West Midlands is leading the way when it comes to smarter, greener transport options – and this is thanks to a new collaboration with Finnish-owned app Whim, which bills itself as “the Spotify of the transport world”.
The Whim team have the aim to revolutionise the way people use public transport, and will launch across the West Midlands on 3 April, working with Transport for West Midlands (TfWM), mayor Andy Street and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA).
Whim is now looking for the first 500 Midlanders to sign up to the scheme. The app, which dovetails with the Swift travel card, delivers transport solutions that will see people enjoying “seamless travel options for less than the average monthly cost of running a car”. Whim integrates journey planning, reservations, payments and subscriptions into one app, paid via an all-inclusive monthly contract ranging from £99 – £349, or on a pay-as-you-go approach.
The Finnish-owned app already operates in Helsinki, where it has 20,000 registered users. It is currently looking for its first British users to take part in the launch of the scheme ahead, of its mass rollout in the region later this summer.
Commuters using Whim will be able to access a number of different modes of public transport including buses, trams, taxis and hire cars, thanks to collaboration with National Express, Gett Taxis, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The app is available either as part of a. Users will also have full access to the new 5,000-strong fleet of nextbike bike-share cycles that were announced for the Midlands earlier this month.
Whim founder Sampo Hietenan said: “We want to challenge the way people start to think about their journeys and let them see that vehicle ownership doesn’t have to be the only way forward. Whim offers a smart alternative for smart people.
“On average, cars are parked up, unused, for about 80% of the time – but we still have pay for them, sometimes in conjunction with other transport options too. Owning a car is actually a burden for many people but there’s been no realistic alternative until now.”
Whim aims to expand to Greater Amsterdam in the Netherlands, the Antwerp region in Belgium, and Singapore by the end of 2018. Negotiations are ongoing in Austria, Canada, Singapore, and several other markets.
Hietanen continued: “We like cars, we’re certainly not anti-car, and we still offer access to cars when needed, via taxis or through hire. But we are showing people that they don’t need to be so reliant on car ownership.
“Once people realise this, the benefits are huge – less traffic, less pollution, less stressful journeys. Whim will also reward people for greener, healthier options such as walking more and having car-free days. It just makes more sense.
“When we launched in Helsinki, we found that people were ready for this kind of service, there is a clear demand. We’re confident the West Midlands is a great place for us to launch Whim for the first time outside Finland.
“We’ve been very positively received and it’s been very clear from the start that the area is dynamic and open to partnership working and innovation,” Hietanen concluded.
The West Midlands being described as “dynamic” – who’d have thought it!