The Science Transit Shuttle bus service has been officially launched at an event at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus, following a successful introduction in July of this year.
In addition to brand-new liveried vehicles, the service has evolved in response to customer demand to feature additional stops, flexible ticketing procedures and plans for extensions to the routes.
The shuttle service connects the University of Oxford's science area with Harwell Campus and the Old Road Campus in Headington, enabling research staff, students and visitors to move quickly and conveniently between these centres of cutting-edge scientific and clinical research. The service is available to all staff and students of the University, and the 5,000 people working at Harwell Campus. Once the commercial viability of an express service on these routes has been established, the aim is to open it up to the wider public so that everyone can benefit.
At the launch event, Professor Ian Walmsley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) at the University of Oxford and Professor Andrew Harrison, Chief Executive Officer of Diamond Light Source, jointly cut the ribbon on one of the newly upgraded shuttle vehicles and delivered a short address on the subject of boosting connectivity within Oxfordshire's science and innovation landscape.
The express service runs every 30 minutes between 7am and 7pm every weekday. Journeys between the science area and Harwell Campus take 40-50 minutes, and 15-20 minutes to Old Road Campus – significantly faster than the public transport equivalent.
Operated since 18 July by University Bus Ltd (UNO), the Science Transit Shuttle is being funded for one year initially by the University of Oxford and the Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC).
Professor Ian Walmsley said: 'The University of Oxford is ranked number one globally, reflecting the range and excellence of its research, and the calibre of its academic researchers. Our cutting-edge research in physical and life sciences needs access to state-of-the-art facilities and collaborations with centres of expertise.
'The Science Transit Shuttle provides a fast and frequent connection between the campuses, which in turn supports growing interactions between the University and organisations at Harwell. This will enable commercial connections and innovation opportunities to flourish from these innovation centres, supporting the local economy.'
Professor Andrew Harrison said: 'Oxfordshire is internationally recognised for the range and excellence of its research and innovation. The two main sites in the county for this are the Harwell Campus and the activities of the universities in and around the city of Oxford.
'Through better connecting these two locations, we have a unique opportunity for networks of interdisciplinary research and innovation to align and develop, building groups with shared interests and access to complementary techniques, facilities and skills.'
The University's transport strategy has identified the need to improve connectivity by sustainable travel across its teaching and research centres, aiming to reduce local traffic congestion and transport emissions of carbon and air pollutants. This improved connectivity will aid the University in achieving its objectives for learning, knowledge creation and the sharing of benefits with wider society.
By providing fast and direct door-to-door connections for business journeys between the three sites (not currently available via public transport), the new shuttle service will also help spur interaction, investment and commercial innovation between the academic and business communities and unlock economic growth on the 'Oxfordshire knowledge spine'.
The service is already proving popular. Milan Muso, a second-year DPhil student in Biochemistry based at the MRC Harwell Institute, said: 'Thanks for this amazing service – the shuttle bus is very convenient, a massive improvement, and makes life and work here at Harwell much easier.'
UNO is a wholly owned subsidiary of the University of Hertfordshire with considerable experience of operating bus services for the higher education sector and Transport for London.
James Thorpe, Managing Director of UNO, said: 'As a subsidiary company of the University of Hertfordshire, UNO is committed to providing smart travel solutions for the higher education sector and improving the overall transport network. The Science Transit Shuttle represents another example of our company working in partnership, and we are very pleased to be working with the University of Oxford alongside our other ventures in Hatfield, Northampton and Cranfield.'