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

27 October 2020

Travelling confidently amid uncertainty

As new waves of lockdowns, firebreaks and other restrictions bite the general message seems to be to only travel if you need to or if your journey is essential. So, it is unlikely that public transport numbers will rise in the next few weeks and months.

Some of the attractions that drew people to move around are closed or access is restricted. The messaging will have a general effect, as is intended, of lowering the number of people coming into contact with each other in confined spaces.

However, road use is now pretty much back to where it was pre-Covid-19. So, good news that our road user community is now up and running. You can read more about it in this issue here. The roads communities join our rail and bus ones which are already producing useful outputs. They have proved a valuable way to test and probe developments and ideas for the future.

This all supplements our weekly omnibus. 2000 adults across Great Britain are asked each week about their journeys or plans to travel. We have nearly six months of data built up now. So, we will soon publish a summary of everything we have learned so far. All of this information is available on our data hub and website.

Keeping public transport users on board during this period will mean focusing on the essentials – this is what users tell us. So, visible cleaning, active social distancing measures, reliable services and enforcement of face covering rules are all essential.

Longer-term we need to start thinking about how to rebuild rail, bus, coach and tram markets. Rail fares retail reform is, when the time is right, an essential part of this. If it’s done right reform can help grow new public transport markets. Don’t worry about getting complex multimodal solutions in place, desirable as that is in the long-term, right now it’s important to just sort out urban and longer-distance rail and to keep improving the bus offering.

In that way you will reduce the barriers to people choosing bus and rail in the longer term. The need to reduce emissions and level up society have not gone away. In some ways they are even more pressing now. We are starting to think how, beyond what we already do, we can make more of a difference in these areas.

One thing we are sure about. You have to offer people quality choices. Being compelled or propelled into change usually just alienates, no matter how pressing the cause.


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