Covid-19 pandemic predicted to make dramatic changes in UK workplace travel patterns

 

 
A survey of commuters found that more than a third of those who previously used public transport were not planning to return once the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted.

In May, 829 commuters from 49 employers from across England were surveyed by sustainable transport consultancy Go Travel Solutions on how they expected their travel behaviours to change because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The results reflect dramatic changes expected in use of public transport, cycling, walking, car use and home working.

Commuters were asked about their preferred transport choice before the pandemic and once the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. Those who cited the bus as their preferred mode of travel fell by 36% (from 222 to 143 respondents), while train dropped by 45% (from 85 to 47).

Active travel looks set to increase with 77% more commuters citing cycling as their preferred mode (from 44 to 78) and 37% increase in those choosing to walk or run (from 38 to 52).

However, the survey suggests that fears of a surge in motoring, leading to traffic gridlock and increased pollution, may be unfounded. The number of commuters who identified car driving alone as their preferred mode fell by 4% (from 306 to 295).

Almost half (47%) expected to travel less often, with just 3% travelling more often. A quarter (26%) expected to drive less by car, with 14% driving by car more often

The same commuters were also asked whether they expected their overall levels of travel to change once the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted. Almost half (47%) expected to travel less often, with just 3% travelling more often. A quarter (26%) expected to drive less by car, with 14% driving by car more often.

The same respondents were also asked about home working. Four-fifths of respondents (82%) were working from home during the May 2020 restrictions, with the remainder unable to do so. The survey found working from home will be the norm for 7% of current commuters.

Of those working from home, 13% believed that they were more effective in their role, compared to 32% stating they were less effective in their role. But most (55%) stated their effectiveness was unchanged.

More home working was attractive to many of the respondents in the future because of the reduced commute and the positive impact on health, well-being and family life. Only a small number of commuters that could work from home in the future preferred to commute to a workplace.

Go Travel Solutions works with businesses, public bodies and transport operators to promote and develop sustainable travel solutions for communities and workplaces across the UK. Most of the survey responses came from members of its SmartGo schemes in Leicester, Milton Keynes and Stevenage.

Covid-19 will make an unprecedented impact on workplace travel. This is not just a change on the here and now but in the months and potentially years to come

“The Covid-19 pandemic is impacting on every part of life in the UK,” said Go Travel Solutions managing director Robin Pointon. “Given the levels of uncertainty, we need to exercise caution in believing perceptions of the future will become the reality. However, what the research from these 800 commuters reflects is that Covid-19 will make an unprecedented impact on workplace travel. This is not just a change on the here and now but in the months and potentially years to come.

“Out of this crisis there can come some positives for both employers and their staff. By prioritising sustainability, there is an opportunity for employers to generate more effective workplaces and better engaged teams. Prioritising remote working, cycling and walking can bring benefits not only for individuals but for whole organisations.

“It offers opportunities to have more effective teams through a proactive approach to staff health and well-being; for some businesses it will provide scope to reduce expensive office costs. It is important that the government at all levels and enterprises like our own provide the necessary support to harness these benefits for employers.”

 
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