Working in partnership with London TravelWatch

Cleanliness – a hygiene factor?

24 May 2021

What makes you feel safe to travel?

Throughout the pandemic Transport Focus has asked passengers what they need to feel safe and confident to travel. Our research has shown that space for passengers to social distance was the most important issue but cleanliness is another key way to feel safe.

We know that cleanliness has always been important to passengers – the pandemic hasn’t made it a new priority. Now though, it is a much higher priority.

Before the pandemic passenger concerns about cleanliness may have typically been focussed on visible litter or grime. Now, many passengers are also understandably concerned about whether surfaces are sanitary – a much higher bar.

Cleanliness or a lack of it has a visceral quality, linked to deep, inbuilt survival mechanisms designed to keep us healthy. A clean environment can not only help you feel comfortable, but in the current context it sends a message about how seriously an operator is taking the pandemic.

We know many transport operators have worked hard to enhance their cleaning regimes in response to the pandemic. Our insight over the last year shows that many passengers have recognised this, with the majority of those travelling satisfied with cleanliness on their journeys.

Our collective understanding of Covid-19 has also changed over time. Scientists now emphasise the role of aerosols and the importance of ventilation to reduce the risk of transmission. Some might argue this means cleaning is now less important or even that enhanced cleaning regimes should be scaled back. Our insight suggests this would be a mistake. Three quarters of people say that cleanliness on public transport will be more important to them in the future, even if Covid-19 is no longer a significant risk.

All our insight now suggests greater levels of concern about cleanliness are likely to persist well beyond the pandemic. It seems possible expectations on cleanliness will have shifted for the long-term with a cultural shift towards greater care over hygiene and health.

Today we’ve published a new report drawing together our key insight on cleanliness and highlighting examples of operator good practice. As restrictions ease and passenger numbers increase, we urge transport operators to maintain improved standards and ensure they continue to communicate their efforts to help reassure and win back more passengers.

“I would consider cleanliness as a very im­portant feature now and going forward – it doesn’t end if the pandemic is over. They should continually evidence that they are providing a safe and clean environment.” Rail passenger, male, 65, South West

Operators have proven to passengers that they can achieve improved cleanliness. Now passengers do not want to see these standards slip.

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