Survey suggests that there will be a big reduction in public transport use after the pandemic unless concerns are heard

 
“A drop of 20% equates to five million fewer trips being made every single day”

 
City transport authorities and operators could face a 20% fall in public transport use even after COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted, as passengers told transport researchers SYSTRA that they will avoid journeys unless health concerns are taken seriously, and commuters change their working travel habits. These results are from a representative survey of 1,500 adult residents across the UK undertaken between April 8-14, 2020.

“A drop of 20% equates to five million fewer trips being made every single day, most of them in and out of our major towns and cities, said Neill Birch, director of public transport at SYSTRA.

Public transport operators must reassure nervous passengers by communicating very clearly about their hygiene regimes, driver and passenger responsibilities. A national campaign may well be required

“Our research highlights the need for the public transport sector to think hard and plan ahead to be ready for when travel restrictions are lifted. Public transport operators must reassure nervous passengers by communicating very clearly about their hygiene regimes, driver and passenger responsibilities. A national campaign may well be required.”

Key findings are:

  • 20% predict making fewer trips by public transport after travel restrictions are lifted rising to 27% for those who use rail to commute.
  • Of those expecting to reduce their use of public transport, 49% will do so because of concerns over getting ill; 24% said they will work from home more; and, 14% said they have found another way of making their journey.
  • 17% of full and part time workers believe they will work from home far more once COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted. Reasons cited were saving the commute time and cost and wanting a better work-life balance.
  • 67% believe virtual meetings will replace some or all business trips or meetings.

We’ll enter a new ‘new normal’ where many people realise that they have more choice about where they work, how they get to work and how they conduct their day-to-day business

Chris Pownall, business development director at SYSTRA, commented: “When we go “back to normal” we won’t go back to the old normal. Instead we’ll enter a new ‘new normal’ where many people realise that they have more choice about where they work, how they get to work and how they conduct their day-to-day business. Travel patterns will have changed. Indisputably this is a call to action for policy makers and public transport operators, who must adapt and create new approaches and partnerships.”

Meanwhile, Katie Hall, director travel behaviour at SYSTRA, fears that a downturn in public transport use will hinder efforts to combat climate change. “Our climate emergency has not been cancelled,” she said. “There is no doubt that this situation has opened up different ways of working for many, but if people start rejecting public transport over the car for work and leisure trips – that’s a massive step backwards. Public transport operators must rise to this challenge.”

 
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