23 Jul 2020

One of the most dramatic changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK has been the impact on the public transport industry.

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The number of people using the train, bus, or other services drastically dropped as the Government asked people to work from home. For example, Transport for London (TfL) reported that fares income fell by 90 per cent in the first two months of the lockdown and the company expected to lose £4bn in 2020 due to the impact of coronavirus*. Thousands of members of staff across the UK public transport network were furloughed to cut costs.

Now lockdown is starting to ease, it is anticipated there could be a shift in the trends for public transport use. The way public space is distributed and the manner we move around urban areas looks set to change, however it is not all bad news; there is an opportunity for transport planners to use this as a catalyst for the transition of more sustainable mobility. Sustainable transport— including walking and cycling, as well as public transport —must become an integral part of this response and city investment, post pandemic.

Survey reveals change in travel habits

To explore further Royal HaskoningDHV carried out a survey of commuters in the UK to examine commuting patterns post lockdown. The survey found that 31% of respondents would reduce their use of public transport due to fear of being exposed to Covid-19 while 13% of respondents expect to rely on public transport less after lockdown. Some 32% of respondents said they will work from home more after lockdown and use videoconferencing. More than one in five (21%) said they had already found other ways of making their journeys.

Public transport must adapt

The above falling passenger numbers are stark figures for the public transport industry. Government advice for social distancing when using public transports means fewer people will use this form of transport than before, leading to less revenue and higher operating cost. City planners will need to give short term consideration to journey patterns and service route catchment areas as well as scheduling and driver efficiencies.

Looking further ahead, we will need to rethink our investments in infrastructure to support active transport, such as cycling paths. This raises some important questions. What impact will this have on large scale rail and road infrastructure projects? And if people are to travel less in the future then what does this mean for huge projects like HS2?

Opportunity to leverage smart mobility

Cities and transport planners need to carefully balance the need for accessibility and sustainable transport post Covid-19. Already cities report an increasing number of people choosing to commute by foot, bicycle or car.

By leveraging smart digital technologies and smart solutions such as the cloud-based intelligent traffic lights installations (iTLCs) such as Flowtack, transport planners and authorities can enable cities to cope with the surge in car and bicycle traffic to keep traffic and people moving. Flowtack uses existing data to assess the traffic conditions and control traffic light at the network level. This leads to reduced idling at traffic lights and a safer city. Flowtack can also prioritise cycling and public transport services in the wake of Covid-19, keeping the city liveable with reduced emissions.

Don’t fall back on former behaviours

The window of opportunity to reshape transport policy and behaviour is closing – we need to avoid falling back into the old behaviours and act promptly. In a recent white paper from Royal HaskoningDHV it revealed municipalities across the Netherlands recognise the benefits that smart mobility can offer but were reticent to use them. Now is the time to grasp this opportunity for the benefit of the city, its people, and the environment.

By operating a strategic lens for planning into the future with actionable insights for today, we can leverage smart technology to underpin the collaboration to forge the next normal for public transport.

*Source: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-52630386

Get in touch with Royal HaskoningDHV to find out how the survey data looks for your region.

Royal HaskoningDHV Papers

Structural changes in commuting and the rise of ‘transport distancing’

In this initial paper, we present the scale of the impact of Covid-19 on travel patterns across the UK, split by geographical regions to allow for a comparison of different variables. This analysis provides insights into measured travel trends in the immediate phase of the lockdown restrictions, providing insights into future travel conditions to enable forward planning and demand forecasting in the UK transport sector.

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Mobility in transition

In this second paper, we present a policy strategy framework which includes a range of proven measures and case studies to shape the future of transport and sustainable mobility, allowing transport planners, operators and authorities to deliver coordinated and effective measures to help lift the UK out of lockdown restrictions.

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Forecasting for the future: decisive transport strategy in a turbulent world

In this third paper, we measure multi-modal travel as parts of the UK start to transition out of the lockdown restrictions and the structural changes which seem to have occurred. We also look at the forces of change affecting our transport networks, which requires us to anticipate change and make choices today which could have a huge impact on our towns and cities of tomorrow. We show how transport forecasting linked to strategic and digital modelling can generate new insights and opportunities. We also present case studies from previous major crisis events and how they changed transport, sometimes permanently or for significant periods. Find out how a new range of updated parameters based on comprehensive multi-modal passenger surveys can help enhance strategic models and develop future forecasts post Covid-19.

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