The transport user Covid debate: what do passengers want in future?
13 November 2020
This week we’ve been looking to the future. We’ve published new insight from passengers from our Transport User Community about what their hopes for transport ‘post-Covid’ and heard from transport industry leaders how they plan to respond at our online event – ‘The transport user Covid debate’.
So, what did passengers have to say about transport post-Covid?
Our community values public transport and hopes that it will evolve with enhanced cleanliness and less crowding after Covid-19. Many rail users are relishing the opportunity not to be ‘packed into’ a crowded train and see the reduced passenger numbers as an opportunity for rail companies to refine their punctuality, reliability and capacity.
Members of the bus community also feel much more health conscious and wary of hygiene and germs in general. They have noted that their local service has been cleaner and more pleasant than before. They do not want to ‘let go of’ the progress that has been made.
The bus community have a renewed respect for bus drivers through the challenges they have faced during the pandemic, and want to see bus travel succeed. The community spontaneously suggested creative ways of making bus travel appeal to new audiences, such as environmentally friendly initiatives like electrification or incentives to switch from car, something they think will be essential in a post-Covid context.
Members of both communities argue that even once the pandemic ends, working from home is here to stay. They feel that public transport will need to find ways of being sustainable with fewer passengers. However, passengers are realising just how much they value their rail and bus services.
So how can the transport industry respond to these challenges? More than 350 people joined us online to hear from industry leaders, including transport minister Baroness Vere. It was a very lively debate with lots of questions and constructive challenge posed by the audience – you can watch it back for yourself here.
Key issues discussed included the need for transport providers to make sure passengers travelling now feel safe and welcome. Face coverings stimulated a lot of debate, with recognition that it’s important to continue to drive up compliance levels, but this must ensure the small minority of passengers who are exempt are not disadvantaged.
It was clear that for public transport to be sustainable in the longer term it’s going to need to try to attract new customers, not just rely on winning back regulars who have stayed away this year. Lots of opportunities were highlighted here too, especially with rail fares reform and new marketing campaigns to grow the leisure market.
Public transport will need to be even more focussed on their passengers in future. It’s clear from passengers’ feedback that their hope is to see the quality of their journeys improved beyond Covid-19, rather than just going back to the old way of doing things.