Working in partnership with London TravelWatch

Back on board? Passengers have their say on return to public transport

17 September 2021

How do people feel about Covid-19 restrictions easing on public transport?

In our latest research we spoke to passengers and non-users to understand what they thought about returning to public transport as social distancing restrictions changed.

As expected, there were a range of opinions, some people were completely ready for life to get back to normal. Many others still felt cautious and told us they would have preferred more restrictions to have stayed in place for longer.

We’ve used the interim findings to help inform the government’s social distancing review and to help operators support people to try public transport again.

Key research findings:

  • people are still at very different stages on the journey back to ‘normal’, with a wide range of attitudes
  • space for social distancing is still important, but people appreciate it often won’t be practical and it’s being replaced with looser efforts to give people more personal space when they can
  • for now, face coverings are the key safety measure people are relying on to help them feel safe
  • many current passengers, and even more of those who have stayed away, still feel anxious about using public transport
  • operators need to work to maintain the additional Covid-19 measures and communications that are currently in place to reassure passengers and help them feel safe.

Across the summer we spoke to the same group of people to understand their views as the rules changed.

One person said: “I have been double jabbed so I’m happy to travel on public transport without a mask on… it makes a big difference.” Male, 47, Cardiff

Meanwhile, another person urged for more clarity on the rules: “I think it is silly that different companies are all doing different things, and nobody knows what they should be doing, so it does put me off using public transport as I still feel the need to distance and wear a mask and I don’t want someone just getting on and sitting next to me.” Female, 36, Hull

It’s clear that transport operators should not rush back to normal: “I would like companies to continue supplying cleaning supplies like hand sanitiser to passengers, and reinforcing the need to be safe, despite social distancing going away.” Male, 21, London

Transport Focus will continue to speak to people to track their attitudes to any change in restrictions and as more people return to public transport.

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