Transport User Voice – May 2020 – Chief executive’s editorial

27 April 2020

A lockdown but not a lock up!

As the lockdown continues some people are still travelling and lots of thoughts are turning to what might happen next. Although, what that might look and feel like and when changes may come in is still extremely vague.

Transport Focus and London TravelWatch have, in the last four weeks, focused on three main themes across Great Britain. That is the quality of information available now for transport users, the level of services available and how refund processes are working.

Plus, our poem thanking transport workers on behalf of users and the country resonated with many. You will find more detail on this in Changing timetables and key workers.

We have secured better information for rail and road users, helped the bus and rail industries match services to key worker and other demand, and ensure refund processes and information are improved. All important in a time when information has a key role in reducing anxiety.

We are also starting a weekly omnibus survey of opinions and perceptions as and when more travel becomes possible or likely. This will be supplemented by more in-depth work with groups of particular potential transport users – commuters for example. This will also allow us to test out draft communications and scenarios for any future return to travel.

When will mass travel resume? Some predictions about changed behaviour seem to ignore the fact that many, often lower-paid jobs, simply require someone to be at work. Once businesses restart some will have little option but to travel. Office workers, like ourselves, who can find it easier to work from home may be some of the last to return.

In a sense many people have become non-users again. As we know from previous work the perceptions of non-users are key to understanding whether they will give public transport a go. These perceptions will be even more important in any phased return.

How will social distancing be practised on crowded tubes and metro services? What will be tolerated? Understanding users’ perceptions before, during and after travel will become important. We are starting to think how we can help the transport industry and the Government to plan for any eventual return.

We are continuing to complete or further advance existing work. More people will start travelling again and the understanding of their priorities, experiences and needs will be just as important.

For example, we have just published the latest of our Transport User Panel Surveys on personal security on trains. Interesting just how important train and station cleanliness is to passenger perceptions even before the lockdown began. We have also just put out the latest figures from some of our franchise-related work on Greater Anglia – the composite mystery shopping and customer experience scores add more to the understanding of that group of passengers. Lots more to come from our Bus Passenger Survey, Strategic Roads User Survey and more – keep tuned in!

We must also acknowledge the hard work done by transport operators and their staff who have continued to provide essential transport services in these challenging and unprecedented times. Train operators face the unenviable challenge of processing record numbers of refund applications with a socially distanced workforce.

So, stay well and see you all soon!

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