can public transport ever recover from COVID-19

Ken H

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This is bus, train, plane and ferry

Public transport use has gone through the floor. Well under 20%
Many are scared to go anywhere enclosed
Many are working at home or furloughed or unemployed. So commuting has dropped off sharply.
Roads are less busy so its easier to drive then use public transport.
People have been told to avoid public transport so have used their cars.


So can public transport recover from this massive change? Will commuting ever recover now the working from home genie is out of the bottle? Will employment pick up again, and how quickly? Will people who have lost the public transport habit go back?

I actually fear the contraction will be permanent. How will the railway move to the 'new normal'?
 
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AJW12

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There will eventually be an increase but for now, it's bounded by people not commuting and the schools not being back to normal. September will be interesting as with schools going back and a lot of companies starting to re-open their offices, we might start to see a steady uptick again.

I work for a fairly large company based in City of London; they did a poll amongst employees and over 75% said they wanted to start working in the office again (at varying frequencies from once-a-week to five-days-a-week) so there's demand. Out of the remaining 25%, nearly all of that were, 'hmm, not quite yet'....

Maybe though more frequent working from home or people realising that there's no need to rush to the office for 9am every morning might result in a more spread out peak, which realistically will actually be a blessing for the rail system. I can't see a downside to more people realising that starting the working day at 10am and taking advantage of the fact train crowding drops off a cliff at around 9:15-30 is actually a very good idea. Also means we don't need to be so aggressive about spending huge amounts of money in order to stuff even more trains into London terminals at peak times.

(EDIT): I think it's also down to things like nightlife returning, and the "Do not travel" / "Is your journey necessary?" / "Essential journeys only" messaging being completely axed. Having been in Scotland for a week now, it annoys me that ScotRail are still pedalling the 'do not travel if not essential' message, and replying to people on Twitter asking about social journeys with things like 'we are not running trains for pubs'. Public transport must resume being the backbone of things like the hospitality industry, allowing people to travel in and out of the city reliably and frequently later and into the night - meaning people don't need to worry about having another drink / staying a bit longer etc. The two go hand in hand.
 

PaulMc7

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I think it can recover but it'll take time, a lot of government encouragement from all govs involved to ensure for people that it's safe and a fair bit of funding to avoid major cuts across the companies involved
 

pr6

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This is bus, train, plane and ferry

Public transport use has gone through the floor. Well under 20%
Many are scared to go anywhere enclosed
Many are working at home or furloughed or unemployed. So commuting has dropped off sharply.
Roads are less busy so its easier to drive then use public transport.
People have been told to avoid public transport so have used their cars.


So can public transport recover from this massive change? Will commuting ever recover now the working from home genie is out of the bottle? Will employment pick up again, and how quickly? Will people who have lost the public transport habit go back?

I actually fear the contraction will be permanent. How will the railway move to the 'new normal'?
Are you a rail user?
 

LAX54

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Last edited:

Bletchleyite

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There is a distinct possibility that reduced commuting will reduce costs of operating public transport, so this might be beneficial. Season tickets are normally heavily discounted so they don't pay the full cost of trains and crews that do one round trip a day for a peak extra - the same service all day would be fine. Similarly for buses, the "peak vehicle requirement" would be the same all day, making it cheaper to run and timetables more consistent.
 

Huntergreed

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well from 1st August travel is open to all :) well so it says !......

What the rules will be from 1 August
Public transport no longer for essential journeys only

People will be able to use buses, trains, trams and ferries for non-essential journeys but a face covering will still be required.

source: AOL
This has been the case for months, and was even announced by Boris in a big push to get people back on transport 2 weeks ago! 'Essential Only' is a thing of the past now, and the media need to catch up.
 

AdamWW

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This has been the case for months, and was even announced by Boris in a big push to get people back on transport 2 weeks ago! 'Essential Only' is a thing of the past now, and the media need to catch up.
Sadly, this is still not the case in Wales, though the message is becoming a little less consistent.
 

AdamWW

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Which sort of makes sense, as TfW Rail has a far greater capacity crunch than the vast majority of other TOCs, and also isn't normally full with commuters so hasn't benefitted from that drop-off.
The network round Cardiff is heavily commuter operated and must actually be fairly large % of seat-miles, yet nobody is supposed to use empty commuter trains to go to the shops.

Maybe you can explain to me - why is TFW so short of capacity compared to England?

I think, however, it hasn't got much to do with that - the government message is that public transport in general is for essential travel only so I think this is a political decision.
 

WM Bus

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Bletchleyite

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Maybe you can explain to me - why is TFW so short of capacity compared to England?
A long term lack of funding, and all the new stock not being ready yet.

The thing is, it's a lot easier for a London commuter operation to whack out 12-car EMU formations for social distancing than a network that doesn't even have enough 2 and 3-car DMUs to have one on each diagram.
 

anthony263

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Well our buses in South wales are picking up very well. From 16th August our vale of glamorgan services going back to the pre lockdown timetables as demand is increasing daily
 

squizzler

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For every apparent harbinger of doom for rail (and public transport operators generally) after C19 there are equally compelling counter arguments. All of the following are either inducements to use public transport, or discouragements to owning and using cars. Not owning a car is not the same as using public transport, but I consider non ownership will make people more receptive to use public transport. Most people here perhaps regard me as bullish about train travel growth, but judge for yourself:
  • European sleeper travel is reactivating to serve those air travellers concerned about infection with the virus
  • Carriageway and parking space is being reallocated from motorists to bike and foot traffic.
  • Air quality awareness has been heightened, and cities are looking to keep combustion cars out residential streets. Consumers will soon have no choice but more expensive and less capable electric cars.
  • Boris Johnson is on a personal mission to reduce obesity and the NHS is, I gather, now prescribing bike riding.
  • Car ownership is being squeezed by twin pressures of fewer trips to make (more home working and fewer leisure venues open, also more home grocery deliveries knocks away one of the main legs under car ownership at a stroke) and less household income. Remember the government has required car finance houses to permit customers to defer their payments and as well as 'MOT' certificates. The number of people choosing to de-car on financial reasons is has therefore been backloaded, but the bills will start to come in soon enough.
  • Rail travel is less crowded and more punctual than before. The emergency agreement with the TOC's mean that the service is more responsive to demand than since BR days, if even then.
  • Previously emerging paradigms of buying transport services driven by technical innovations, such as on-demand car and bike share, and Mobility as a Service.
 
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ChiefPlanner

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Which sort of makes sense, as TfW Rail has a far greater capacity crunch than the vast majority of other TOCs, and also isn't normally full with commuters so hasn't benefitted from that drop-off.
Not true - my Welsh residents will be straight in soon - TfW has significant peak loadings not just in the Cardiff hinterland , but also on interurban routes such as Salop - Birmingham , Crewe to Manchester and Abergavenny - Pontypool - Cardiff etc and also on the South Wales Main line towards Swansea and Cardiff from both directions.

There are even commuter flows into Aberystwyth. Many others also I am sure.

Well , there were before all this.......
 

AdamWW

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The thing is, it's a lot easier for a London commuter operation to whack out 12-car EMU formations for social distancing than a network that doesn't even have enough 2 and 3-car DMUs to have one on each diagram.
But it's not just London commuter routes that people are allowed back on to.

And a 2 coach train with a 6th the number of people travelling is as good as a 12 coach one.

Anyway TFW seem to be claming that they don't have the stock to run anything closer to a full service, yet they had the stock before.
 

CaptainHaddock

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This has been the case for months, and was even announced by Boris in a big push to get people back on transport 2 weeks ago! 'Essential Only' is a thing of the past now, and the media need to catch up.
Exactly. I thought I'd gone through a timeslip when I saw this thread and assumed it was one started back in April or May!

Non-essential rail travel has been perfectly legal for several weeks, despite the TOCs trying to tell people otherwise.
 

ChiefPlanner

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Some tangible comments from "those who are there" would be very welcome. How busy are these trains ? - are the "Pacer sandwiches" a force for good , or is the resurgence of tourists to the country entirely road based.

I am very keen on "going home" to South West Wales by rail , and there are many others I can think of intending to travel , but are really (like me - with free travel) , considering getting the car out.

Certainly - rail usage from where I write from is up ......both peak and off peak - but still enough room on trains to assuage even a house locked Daily Express reader.
 

philosopher

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Some tangible comments from "those who are there" would be very welcome. How busy are these trains ? - are the "Pacer sandwiches" a force for good , or is the resurgence of tourists to the country entirely road based.

I am very keen on "going home" to South West Wales by rail , and there are many others I can think of intending to travel , but are really (like me - with free travel) , considering getting the car out.

Certainly - rail usage from where I write from is up ......both peak and off peak - but still enough room on trains to assuage even a house locked Daily Express reader.
I have done a couple of rail trips over the past month, both off peak. Three Saturdays ago I did the Seven Sisters walk from London. The train from Victoria to Lewes was reasonably busy, with about a third to half the seats taken. The train from Lewes to Seaford was very busy, with at least 80% of the seats taken and some passengers standing. This train only had three carriages though. The train back from Eastbourne was quieter with a third the seats taken. Victoria station at nine in the morning did not look much quieter than normal. It was sunny that Saturday which may have resulted in it being quite busy.

Last weekend I visited my mum in Birmingham. The Avanti West Coast train on Friday afternoon was very quiet up until Coventry where perhaps 20 passengers got on the coach I was in. The journey back late on Sunday afternoon was fairly busy and I would say a third of the seats where taken.

One thing I noticed that on all trips it was generally teenagers and young adults travelling. There were very few older adults.
 

AdamWW

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One thing I noticed that on all trips it was generally teenagers and young adults travelling. There were very few older adults.
I could imagine two factors in that - one, lack of access to a car, two - lack of fear of Covid-19 based on (lack of) age.
 

midland1

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I am 64 and I have no fear, I was at school at the time of Hong kong flu in 1968 which killed 80000 here and we just got on with things.
 

AJW12

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Some tangible comments from "those who are there" would be very welcome. How busy are these trains ? - are the "Pacer sandwiches" a force for good , or is the resurgence of tourists to the country entirely road based.

I am very keen on "going home" to South West Wales by rail , and there are many others I can think of intending to travel , but are really (like me - with free travel) , considering getting the car out.

Certainly - rail usage from where I write from is up ......both peak and off peak - but still enough room on trains to assuage even a house locked Daily Express reader.
Resident of Greater London who is currently visiting Scotland here!; visiting family I've not seen for months primarily, but not staying in their houses (due to c-19) so using hotels and doing some travelling at the same time.

Experience so far:
  • LNER train from Kings X to Aberdeen was busy by social distance standards; my first class carriage had all the seats that could be reserved, reserved
  • The more 'tourist'-y lines are still quiet. I've used both Wick and Kyle of Lochalsh lines and even with the fairly reduced ScotRail service (both have about 2 journeys each way rather than 4), there was more than enough room for individuals to have a whole table to themselves
  • I've not seen a remotely full Lothian / East Coast bus. The busiest I saw today was a 31 to Bonnyrigg at about 6pm; with nearly all window seats taken. But I've not really seen any others particularly busy
    • They've reintroduced some of their peak-time limited stoppers but I've seen X26/X44s coming out in the evening down London Road with no more than 8 people on each. Ditto for X33/37s near Surgeons' Hall with about 5 on each.
    • That said though, the buses are not dead; they look like they normally would at noon for most of the day. Plenty of space but patronage would appear to be ticking up.
  • Tweedbank train arriving into Edinburgh about 11am full and standing - then again it's down to 3 carriages every hour
  • Peak time trains out of Edinburgh probably at about 20% of their seating capacity at best
Face coverings probably at 90%ish compliance too; very generally it's younger people who aren't wearing one; but they usually have half the bus to themselves when that's the case. The trains/buses I've seen busy or close to full, that number goes to 100% (think at that stage, if you don't wear one you get dirty looks).

Agree re. the above point on average age of traveller though. Far fewer pensioners out and about than normal here. (Apparently a poll showed Scots on average believe 7% of the population have died from c-19 rather than the true figure of 0.07%, so maybe the press have succeeded into unreasonably scaring them all into not leaving their homes.... but this is not the topic of this thread!)
 

Crossover

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I’m sure it will, however with rail at least it feels like a bit of an ‘own goal’ - round by us the timetables seem to have been stripped to the bone and appear committed to such service until September - one could argue it doesn’t do too much to encourage use!

One particular example being the S&C, a line that should be popular over the coming months. The last trains from Settle currently are around 6pm and the daytime service is stripped down too from its usual levels
 

The Ham

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For every apparent harbinger of doom for rail (and public transport operators generally) after C19 there are equally compelling counter arguments. All of the following are either inducements to use public transport, or discouragements to owning and using cars. Not owning a car is not the same as using public transport, but I consider non ownership will make people more receptive to use public transport. Most people here perhaps regard me as bullish about train travel growth, but judge for yourself:
  • European sleeper travel is reactivating to serve those air travellers concerned about infection with the virus
  • Carriageway and parking space is being reallocated from motorists to bike and foot traffic.
  • Air quality awareness has been heightened, and cities are looking to keep combustion cars out residential streets. Consumers will soon have no choice but more expensive and less capable electric cars.
  • Boris Johnson is on a personal mission to reduce obesity and the NHS is, I gather, now prescribing bike riding.
  • Car ownership is being squeezed by twin pressures of fewer trips to make (more home working and fewer leisure venues open, also more home grocery deliveries knocks away one of the main legs under car ownership at a stroke) and less household income. Remember the government has required car finance houses to permit customers to defer their payments and as well as 'MOT' certificates. The number of people choosing to de-car on financial reasons is has therefore been backloaded, but the bills will start to come in soon enough.
  • Rail travel is less crowded and more punctual than before. The emergency agreement with the TOC's mean that the service is more responsive to demand than since BR days, if even then.
  • Previously emerging paradigms of buying transport services driven by technical innovations, such as on-demand car and bike share, and Mobility as a Service.
Indeed, one thing which is worth noting is that a fairly small shift from road to rail could have a significant impact on the numbers of miles traveled by rail.

A 6.25% shift in miles from road to rail would add 50% of the miles traveled in 2019 to rail.

Given that 25% of miles traveled are 50+ miles, a distance ideally suited for rail travel, but only make up up to 20 trips a year (which is a very few compared to the overall number taken). Therefore as people have less justification to own a car there's plenty of occasional travel which could be undertaken by rail.

That's before you look at other journeys which people could take.

Car use could fall significantly. If you are driving 10,000 miles a year with 6,500 miles being for commuting (14.5 miles each way to work) and that falls as someone then goes into work 40% of the time that cuts about 4,000 miles from the use of the car.

If that person is paying £3,000 for all their car costs (purchase, maintenance, parking, VED, insurance, etc.) then the cost would fall to £2,600 with their reduced miles however the cost per mile would rise from 30p/mile to 43p/mile.

Most rail travel is cheaper than that, given that 25% of travel is sub 5 miles then it's possible for many to be able to cycle most of those journeys (especially with the aid of an e-bike) or use local public transport.

Combined that's enough that a lot of people with 2+ cars would be able to reduce the numbers of cars that they own, even if it doesn't result in many more people not owning a car at all.
 

yorksrob

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I’m sure it will, however with rail at least it feels like a bit of an ‘own goal’ - round by us the timetables seem to have been stripped to the bone and appear committed to such service until September - one could argue it doesn’t do too much to encourage use!

One particular example being the S&C, a line that should be popular over the coming months. The last trains from Settle currently are around 6pm and the daytime service is stripped down too from its usual levels
Indeed. If railway travel does recover, it will be in spite of the efforts of some train companies, rather than because of them.
 

adc82140

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Let's face it, pre Covid, the rail network was creaking at the seams. A drop of 20% would be beneficial for the running of the network. However the funding shortfall that would create would have to be plugged by the government. Having travelled extensively on British Rail in the past , I would never advocate a return to full public ownership, but perhaps full nationalisation of Network Rail and also the rolling stock leasing companies could be the way forward.
 

Bletchleyite

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Let's face it, pre Covid, the rail network was creaking at the seams. A drop of 20% would be beneficial for the running of the network. However the funding shortfall that would create would have to be plugged by the government. Having travelled extensively on British Rail in the past , I would never advocate a return to full public ownership, but perhaps full nationalisation of Network Rail and also the rolling stock leasing companies could be the way forward.
Network Rail is nationalised.
 

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