During the past few months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, public transport use has plummeted 90%. It is estimated that use will continue to remain below pre-COVID levels for some time to come due to lockdown restrictions still easing slowly. However, this figure doesn’t tell the full story. Pre-COVID levels saw train use double from 2002-2018, but bus use decreased by around 20% with half of its current use being in London.
Although the government has created a cycle fund for England of £2 billion, a major concern for public transport ridership is the large number of people who may continue to work from home even once lockdown has completely lifted. Evidence, although anecdotal, suggests companies are starting to open offices with limited capacity and predictions see many companies allowing employees to work from home full time to reduce bills.
In this article, ITEN member Martin Lamb explored potential business opportunities for public transport as we focus on a more sustainable public transport infrastructure. How can we build back better?
With many stores beginning to increase delivery services and optimise their transport, is there a way that public transport can be incorporated into their new models? If so, would this be offered country-wide or be more suitable for more rural areas? Currently, smaller vehicles are used on bus routes to provide faster service to such rural areas. This service could be incorporated into parcel deliveries either to rural homes or distribution centres, a concept not new to Royal Mail who had a similar process until 2017. Just as the bus route can be used for smaller deliveries, the railway can be used to help deliver larger loads over a larger distance. With the delivery of PPE already being tested on public transport, there is a basis on how this can be implemented and, as the idea of carrying freight exists in planes already, this has the potential to prove successful.
Not all ideas are applicable in every situation, but existing data and with proper planning, it is certainly something worth investigating. ITEN Consultant Martin Lamb looks in more detail at the business opportunities available to public transport in a post-COVID-19 world.