Transport User Voice – August 2021 – Chief executive’s editorial

26 July 2021

To cover or not to cover

That appears to be one of the key questions as many of us start to head off on summer holidays. The 19 July rule changes in England appear to have made little difference so far on the ground but we will continue to monitor the impact. We strongly argued that, despite differing rules, the messages given to passengers are as consistent and clear as possible. It is good to see that many transport operators have listened and have put out strong messages encouraging wearing face coverings.

It seems that those who would have worn face coverings are still doing so, those who would not are probably still not. This was confirmed by my colleagues and I on our travels this week – most people are still wearing them on board buses and trains. Still, this probably makes elements of public transport feel less safe to those more vulnerable. We are all continuing to make our own risk assessments about what we do and when. This applies to shops, entertainment and, for some, work and transport.

As many of us set off on holiday by car, we have been working with motorway service providers, asking them to make information on how busy they are, available before people set off. We have also asked how Highways England will cope with the expected heavy traffic. More on this soon.

We will continue to monitor through our weekly Travel during Covid-19 survey and regular Covid-19 travel segmentation, what people are doing, how confident they are feeling and how behaviour is changing. If infection rates continue to rise or fluctuate, we can plot how people view this in relation to transport. We use this data to help governments and the transport industry plan and hone communication messages.

Meanwhile, the Government has published its transport decarbonisation plan. This is an impressive document that pulls together all the current transport plans and makes new promises and commitments as the path to 2050 is plotted. It’s a start and we intend to look carefully at how we can help – in the area of behaviour change in particular.

We all make travel choices based on cost and convenience. Even if all public transport became free, many would still use cars as they are simply more convenient. Nudging people into different behaviours will take time and investment but we are keen to help. Interesting that the new low-cost airline, Lift, is stressing that booking, changes, and cancellation flexibility for passengers is key in the new world – maybe there are lessons there for long-distance rail.

In addition to helping make public transport more attractive, we are planning a new benchmarking survey on the experience of electric vehicle recharging on the Strategic Road Network. This should drive up reliability and standards.

So, if you are going away, have been away or are staying at home – above all stay safe and travel safely.


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