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Via selected to operate new on-demand public transit service “sprinti” in Hannover, Germany

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March 24, 2021 (HANNOVER) — The Hannover region and the transport companies ÜSTRA and Regiobus are planning to launch an on-demand public transport system in the area. The pilot program will last up to three and a half years, and the system will be launched in three municipalities including Sehnde, Springe, and Wedemark in June. Following a tender process, Via, the leader in TransitTech, has been awarded the contract for the pilot.

The service, called “sprinti,” is intended to complement regular bus services and to be more efficient, flexible, and convenient than previous dial-a-ride taxi services. 

“With this new service, the quality of local transport in the Hanover Region reaches a new dimension,” explains Region President Hauke Jagau. “By its very nature, scheduled bus services in rural areas are more limited compared to the options available in the state capital – both in terms of frequency and spatial availability,” Jagau said. A denser bus network, in turn, would worsen economic efficiency. A dilemma that – it is hoped – could be resolved with the new service. “We have to provide all citizens in the region with an adequate mobility offer – even those who have chosen a more sparsely populated district as their place of residence.”

“This project is a milestone for mobility in the surrounding communities and is certainly unique in Germany in this form,” emphasizes Regional Transport Director Ulf-Birger Franz. “The traffic turnaround can only succeed if we convince the customers,” he adds. “Speed, availability, uncomplicated booking and payment, as well as comfort during the journey, are the components of success,” Franz says.

Public transport provider Via

Founded in 2012, Via is a global leader in the development and deployment of on-demand systems and other technologies to optimize public transport. The company helps its partners to power and operate intelligent networks of on-demand shuttles, fixed-route buses, corporate shuttle services, and autonomous vehicles.

Via works with cities and public transit authorities to reduce the cost of public transport, and offer new mobility options that are so convenient and reliable that they represent a real alternative to private cars. At the same time, these new mobility offerings have the potential to significantly reduce environmental impact. Via currently works with more than 200 partners on five continents worldwide, and in German-speaking countries with around 20 partners, including the Berlin public transport authority (BVG), the Stuttgart tramway company (SSB) and the Zurich transport authority (VBZ).

“With sprinti, Region Hannover is launching an innovative transport concept that combines flexibility, comfort and inclusion with high efficiency, making public transit even more attractive,” says Valerie von der Tann, General Manager of Via in Germany. “We are delighted that Region Hannover is relying on Via’s technology and operational expertise to achieve this important goal.” 

How the “sprinti” works

The “sprinti” will be booked through the GVH app, as well as a dedicated “sprinti” app, powered by technology from Via. Customers will be picked up or dropped off at virtual bus stops – no further than 150 meters from their starting point or destination. Customer wait times between booking and pickup are estimated at 15 to 20 minutes. Anyone with a valid GVH ticket can use the service, and just like when traveling by bus or train, there is no price surcharge. The operating times are to be attractive and, above all, easier to remember: 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. on weekdays, and 8 a.m. to as late as 4 a.m. on weekends. 

Vehicles and driving personnel

The vehicles that will accompany the test service will be able to carry up to six passengers. They will be barrier-free and able to accommodate up to two wheelchairs. This will be made possible by a lift at the rear of the vehicle. Rollators or baby carriages can also be taken along. A total of 20 vans of the type “Mercedes Sprinter Mobility” are planned for the three municipalities. Recruitment of drivers is already underway, and Via plans to hire nearly 100 for the service. Regular training sessions will be held to get the employees up to speed before the service launch in June.

Financing and application 

Annual expenditure is currently expected to be just under 3.5 million euros.

Hannover Region has applied for EU funding for the project for the first two years. The funding rate is 50 percent. 

The region is also seeking funding for the on-demand service after the first two years. “We are currently applying with the “sprinti” as part of the model project to strengthen public transport,” explains Franz. With up to 30 million euros and a quota of up to 95 percent, the Federal Ministry of Transport supports innovative projects in local public transport. “The goal is to roll out this on-demand system in the so-called tariff zone C of the GVH. This would involve a total of 11 municipalities” said Franz.

In order to adequately advertise the new service and make it known locally, a tender for a marketing agency is currently underway. The award is scheduled for the end of March. The main components of the communication for the “sprinti” are the participation of potential users, the local announcement and the communication of the usage modalities through different content and channels. The main temporal focus for the application is initially around the launch date – i.e. in May and June, but is also to be continued thereafter. 

Start in Sehnde, Springe and Wedemark

“Sprinti is to be integrated into the existing bus network of the municipalities. A supplement in the best sense of the word,” emphasizes ÜSTRA board member and regiobus managing director Elke van Zadel. In addition to the environmental aspect, economic efficiency is also an important factor. “After all, the transporter is used where the bus makes no sense.”

“Even with the expansion of on-demand transport, the bus offer will continue to be the mainstay of the transport offer wherever it is needed. With a new offer, additional fields of work and more flexible application possibilities may arise in the future, ”emphasizes ÜSTRA board member Denise Hain.

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