The UK’s first fully electric, full-size single decker autonomous bus service is now operating between Didcot Parkway train station and Milton Park – a leading science, technology and business park in Oxfordshire between Didcot and Abingdon.
Launching today, the free service marks the final phase of the Mi-Link autonomous bus trial. Operated by First Bus, the vehicle – supplied by EV manufacturer Switch Mobility – has been converted to autonomous operation by Fusion Processing.
The 28-seater bus will run every 30 minutes from 7am-6.30pm Monday to Saturday until the trial’s conclusion on Saturday 30 September. The Mi-Link 003 service will follow a new route which features multiple stops along Park Drive – Milton Park’s main arterial road.
The trial’s latest milestone follows two successful phases using a 15-seat minibus earlier this year, with more than 1,000 passengers taking part. A survey by the University of the West of England found 98% of riders would use the service again.
The second phase of the trial ran for seven weeks across June and July, completing over 500 journeys and clocking more than 3,000 miles.
Together, the trips saved nearly 1.5 metric tonnes of CO2 when compared to a diesel-engined bus – the equivalent emissions of a typical household’s average energy consumption over three months.
Veronica Reynolds, Sustainability and Community Manager at Milton Park, said: “This final phase is the last chance for people to experience the future of autonomous zero-emissions travel as part of the Mi-Link trial.
“The feedback received to date – from the Park’s occupiers, visitors and local residents – has been invaluable in advancing the sector’s knowledge of sustainable, autonomous transport. We’d like to extend a big thank you to everyone who has participated in the trial so far.”
“Milton Park is privileged to be home to so many innovative occupiers, so it’s fitting the Park has been chosen as a living lab for this landmark trial – the first time autonomous technology has been used to deliver a fully electric public bus service in the UK.”
John Birtwistle, Head of Policy at First Bus, said: “We’re leading the way in bringing a revolutionary bus travel experience to more people and delivering this with an innovative and green approach to the future of public transport.”
“The next phase in this ground-breaking bus service gives us the opportunity to show more customers the exciting possibilities afforded by combining zero emission and digital autonomous technology to provide a smarter, cleaner and quieter way to travel.”
In line with previous phases of the trial, a safety driver will be on board at all times to provide a personalised service and information to passengers.
Led by First Bus, the Mi-Link project is being delivered by a consortium partnership between Fusion Processing Ltd, Oxfordshire County Council, UWE and Zipabout Local, and funded by UK Department for Transport’s Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) through Innovate UK.