can public transport ever recover from COVID-19

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yorksrob

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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.
This is true.

A less "peaky" peak could be the best thing to happen to the railway for regular travellers for years.
 

Bletchleyite

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This is true.

A less "peaky" peak could be the best thing to happen to the railway for regular travellers for years.
And would save the railway an absolute fortune on rolling stock that sits around doing nothing between the peaks as well as staff to drive/guard it.

The national timetable could look a lot more like the Avanti timetable - pretty much the same all day from start to finsh of service.
 

yorksrob

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And would save the railway an absolute fortune on rolling stock that sits around doing nothing between the peaks as well as staff to drive/guard it.

The national timetable could look a lot more like the Avanti timetable - pretty much the same all day from start to finsh of service.
Ideally, it would be good if some of that rolling stock could be re-distributed to the sort of services that will be proportionately more important markets (i.e. leisure), however electrification would prevent this in it's fullest potential.
 

Bletchleyite

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Ideally, it would be good if some of that rolling stock could be re-distributed to the sort of services that will be proportionately more important markets (i.e. leisure), however electrification would prevent this in it's fullest potential.
In practice it would mean more scrapping of older EMUs (as EMUs are mostly the issue), however that does mean bad news for the factories as there'd be no new orders for some time.
 

PTR 444

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Let’s face it, back at the start of the year, we were endlessly complaining about poor punctuality and overcrowding on many TOCs, particularly SWR and Northern. Do we really want a return to that?

Covid has eliminated crowding as we know it on trains, and despite this causing an income shortfall, it would be much better in the long run if peak demand is spread out. All-time high punctuality is another unexpected side effect of this crisis, but one which is greatly welcomed and should be maintained once things are back to some sort of normality.

As others have said, spreading out peak demand is the way to go. It would remove the need for excess stock staying idle in depots during the day, therefore reducing costs. Also, running slightly fewer but longer trains would help ease overcrowding and keep punctuality at improved levels, something people were crying out for long before Covid.
 

Merle Haggard

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Sorry, caught Post Reply with my sleeve before adding my comments

If this were to happen, there would be many consequences; fewer on-train staff, fewer maintenance staff - redundancies. Almost all trains are on lease, possibly on a fixed term. Even if the unwanted peak hour trains were cascaded to replace old stock, there would still be a surplus of trains. How could lease costs be avoided - I don't know whether it's possible to just 'return the keys' without penalty. Railways are regarded by government as indispensable in coping with commuter flows into major cities - if demand drops considerably, would a government continue the subsidies, or regard other transport modes as able to cope instead?
I don't know the answers, but what seems not to be noticed is that figures suggest that the UK has had an 11%, or thereabouts, fall in GDP as a result of Covid. Perhaps this doesn't follow, but this could mean that 89% of business remains working. I don't think trains are carrying anything like 89% of previous figures- - working from home and flexible working is part of the reason, but will this be completely restored at some time in the future?

Let’s face it, back at the start of the year, we were endlessly complaining about poor punctuality and overcrowding on many TOCs, particularly SWR and Northern. Do we really want a return to that?

Covid has eliminated crowding as we know it on trains, and despite this causing an income shortfall, it would be much better in the long run if peak demand is spread out. All-time high punctuality is another unexpected side effect of this crisis, but one which is greatly welcomed and should be maintained once things are back to some sort of normality.

As others have said, spreading out peak demand is the way to go. It would remove the need for excess stock staying idle in depots during the day, therefore reducing costs. Also, running slightly fewer but longer trains would help ease overcrowding and keep punctuality at improved levels, something people were crying out for long before Covid.
 

AdamWW

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Sorry, caught Post Reply with my sleeve before adding my comments

If this were to happen, there would be many consequences; fewer on-train staff, fewer maintenance staff - redundancies. Almost all trains are on lease, possibly on a fixed term. Even if the unwanted peak hour trains were cascaded to replace old stock, there would still be a surplus of trains. How could lease costs be avoided - I don't know whether it's possible to just 'return the keys' without penalty. Railways are regarded by government as indispensable in coping with commuter flows into major cities - if demand drops considerably, would a government continue the subsidies, or regard other transport modes as able to cope instead?
I don't know the answers, but what seems not to be noticed is that figures suggest that the UK has had an 11%, or thereabouts, fall in GDP as a result of Covid. Perhaps this doesn't follow, but this could mean that 89% of business remains working. I don't think trains are carrying anything like 89% of previous figures- - working from home and flexible working is part of the reason, but will this be completely restored at some time in the future?
I think the quick answer is that long term, railways would probably benefit from smoothing out peak traffic. In the short term, who knows? Always hard to predict the effects disruption will take.

Good point about whether railways would be seen as less worthy of subsidy if not needed to relieve pressure on roads during commuting times. But I suspect we are a long way from that being the case.
 

westv

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I can't see there being much smoothing out of the peak. Excluding shift workers and part time most people's working hours fall somewhere between 8am and 6pm. Assuming an 8 hour day that gives a limited range of movement.
 

Huntergreed

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I can't see there being much smoothing out of the peak. Excluding shift workers and part time most people's working hours fall somewhere between 8am and 6pm. Assuming an 8 hour day that gives a limited range of movement.
Indeed, but with a significant amount of people now working from home for at least some of the time and employers being asked to stagger start times to prevent a rush-hour on public transport, it’s possible thay running a consistent, reliable service through the day will be more effective and sensible than cramming everything on during the peaks and then having a much quieter service during the rest of the day (this may actually allow for longer stock as well, making journeys more comfortable at all times)
 

yorksrob

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Sorry, caught Post Reply with my sleeve before adding my comments

If this were to happen, there would be many consequences; fewer on-train staff, fewer maintenance staff - redundancies. Almost all trains are on lease, possibly on a fixed term. Even if the unwanted peak hour trains were cascaded to replace old stock, there would still be a surplus of trains. How could lease costs be avoided - I don't know whether it's possible to just 'return the keys' without penalty. Railways are regarded by government as indispensable in coping with commuter flows into major cities - if demand drops considerably, would a government continue the subsidies, or regard other transport modes as able to cope instead?
I don't know the answers, but what seems not to be noticed is that figures suggest that the UK has had an 11%, or thereabouts, fall in GDP as a result of Covid. Perhaps this doesn't follow, but this could mean that 89% of business remains working. I don't think trains are carrying anything like 89% of previous figures- - working from home and flexible working is part of the reason, but will this be completely restored at some time in the future?
Certainly up here (Northern England) if there were a reduction in peak travel, there wouldn't be a comparable surpluss of trains. Even now, off-peak traffic is picking up noticably on my local route, and that is 2-carriage 150's. This seems to be the case on most routes where they've put back a decent train service (and some where they haven't).
 

Jamesrob637

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Very long term yes, but you may be talking 5-10 years. In the meantime, more people working from home on a given day means that peak trains will be busier than off-peak trains but not to the same extent as pre-COVID.

However, rolling stock which is being built and/or on order must continue.
 

bramling

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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.
The only time I’ve seen busy trains are beaches (especially on the finest days) and early morning.
 

bramling

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And would save the railway an absolute fortune on rolling stock that sits around doing nothing between the peaks as well as staff to drive/guard it.

The national timetable could look a lot more like the Avanti timetable - pretty much the same all day from start to finsh of service.
I really think this is a bit of a misnomer.

The London commuter TOCs have stock sitting around, though even there it’s nowadays nothing like it used to be.

Take my local route (KX suburban). The 700/1s don’t go away off-peak at all, and for the 700/0s it’s something like 3 go away out of 12, for 387s it’s 6 out of 27, 717s 4 out of 21, the big outlier being 17 out of 17 365s. Most of these spend the midday at a major depot so with all these fleets having extensive outstabling overnight it allows maintenance to occur. A *lot* of work occurs during the midday period, for some depots this is a very busy time.

(Note the above figures are off the top of my head, but they’re roughly right)

Elsewhere it’s the same story, and if you ran an all-day Saturday service it would actually require *more* units if you had less peaky demand as there’s tricks the planners use like running ECS back to squeeze in an extra peak trip which you can’t do with a Saturday service.

The peaks work because demand is very consistent from one week to the next so it’s possible to plan very accurately. By contrast look what happens on the regional TOCs at times like weekends on the run up to Christmas, or on seaside routes when the weather is nice. Ultimately it doesn’t really work so well unless you have peak-time quantities of stock in the first place.

Where there is scope for thought is the age-old question of whether we should be running longer trains less frequently. The reduced frequently is well known to risk reduced revenue, but the flip side is would better performance attract people?
 

The Ham

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Very long term yes, but you may be talking 5-10 years. In the meantime, more people working from home on a given day means that peak trains will be busier than off-peak trains but not to the same extent as pre-COVID.

However, rolling stock which is being built and/or on order must continue.
I suspect that it's unlikely to be that long.

What you have to remember is that rail is about 10% of miles traveled whilst road is about 80% of miles traveled.

WFH will not only make rail's usage fall, but it also will reduce the miles traveled by car. However the majority of the costs of car ownership aren't overly well linked to miles traveled.

For instance insurance hardly changes deepening on the distances traveled (in fact some insurers have bandings, so anything less than, say, 15,000 miles and it's all the same cost). The value (& therefore deprecation) doesn't change all that much based on miles traveled compared to the age of the car. The difference between a 12,000/year car and 8,000/year car would be fairly minimal.

If people only need a car 2 or 3 days a week for work then they are much more likely to share a car between a couple who both work. Even if that means that one of them uses public transport one day a week.

However it's also likely that public transport could stay to be more cost effective than owning a car.

If you use a car every day then it could be choosing you £8.20/day. However if you don't use it 1 day a week that rises to £9.60/day, and it's likely that over the course of a year most people already don't use it for 52 days.

If that increases to 104 days/year due to home working that increases to £11.50/day. Even then, of the remaining days, chances are there'll be several days where the car is used for only a few miles for each of those days.

As such it can quite quickly become better value to use walking/cycling and public transport for your main modes of transport.

If just 6.25% of the total distance traveled by road switched to rail then that would add 50% of the number of miles traveled by rail in 2019. As such a 20% reduction in rail travel would likely be offset by extra use of railways rather quickly.

However even then I'm not sure that there's likely to be a prolonged period where rail sees that sort of decrease.

It's often cited that 25% of people would like to work from home, week that's most likely to mean for 2-4 days a week rather than none. Even if weekly is generally none there's still likely to be some days in the office over the year, so that very few would do less than 10% of days in the office.

Even at 10% that's not a 25% fall rather a 22.5% fall. However if it averages at 50% then that's only a 12.5% fall, and so with the typical 2.5% increase year on year that's likely to be closer to a 10% fall.

I think that 2020 is likely to be down a lot, mostly due to lockdown, but the difference between 2019 and 2021 would probably look more like a 10% fall and probably by 2025 there'd be little between it and 2019 or if there's much of a difference is because it's gone higher.

Whilst there's the potential that we wouldn't see rail growth as high as it would have been without Covid-19 in the next few years, there's also the chance that it could swing the other way and that there would be more travel.

That travel would be more likely to be spread over a wider area (so there's a need for now regional/intercity capacity and slightly less in/out of London) and a wider timeframe (so more off-peak travel).
 

Freightmaster

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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 long suffering taxpayer.
Fixed that for you! ;)





MARK
 

AM9

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Fixed that for you! ;)





MARK
Which isn't true either. Much of the unplanned (and planned) investment and running costs are at the expense of other services that are funded from the public purse. For example, the UK NHS is the poorest funded in Western Europe and social care is desperately underfunded resulting in disasterous impacts, etc.. If something is added to the costs borne by the public purse, none of the other beneficiaries are ring-fenced.
 

carlberry

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Of all the things the long suffering taxpayer's going to be coughing up for, public transport will be amongst the most useful.
Not the NHS then, or social care, or schools. Public transport might be useful however it sits quite low in terms of people's perception in the UK. Especially if they think they might have to pay a congestion charge or an increased fuel tax.
 

yorksrob

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Not the NHS then, or social care, or schools. Public transport might be useful however it sits quite low in terms of people's perception in the UK. Especially if they think they might have to pay a congestion charge or an increased fuel tax.
I said "amongst".
 

philosopher

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Not the NHS then, or social care, or schools. Public transport might be useful however it sits quite low in terms of people's perception in the UK. Especially if they think they might have to pay a congestion charge or an increased fuel tax.
Public transport is indeed quite low down people’s list of priorities, however people are getting increasingly concerned by the environment. Good public transport is seen as one way to improve the environment.

Reducing train services, especially at the peaks the government can probably get away with, particularly if it is sold as a measure to improve train punctuality. However if the government close railway lines, then I think there would quite a large backlash from those who are concerned about the environment and global warming.
 

kylemore

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Network Rail is nationalised.
And the train operating companies working under the emergency operating arrangements with the UK and Scottish governments have been reclassified as "Public Non-financial Corporations" by the ONS backdated to 1st April - effectively nationalisation albeit on a temporary basis - the companies are basically contractors operating a government service.
 

mwmbwls

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I cannot give a direct answer to the question posed by this thread but there is an old axiom that says,“What gets measured gets managed”. This report relates specifically on transmission during rail travel, It will probably prompt further studies. Taken from data carried on High Speed Trains in China – there will no doubt be a need for closer to home studies particularly on Commuter Services.

https://www.railbusinessdaily.com/study-reveals-covid-19-transmission-rate-on-trains/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Todays Rail News Raj Sinha joins SWGR as Group Managing Director&utm_content=Todays Rail News Raj Sinha joins

https://www.southampton.ac.uk/news/2020/07/train-transmission.page

A study by scientists from the University of Southampton has examined the chances of catching COVID-19 in a train carriage carrying an infectious person.

Based on high-speed routes in China, researchers from WorldPop found that for train passengers sitting within three rows (widthwise) and five columns (lengthwise) of an infected person (index patient) between zero and ten percent (10.3) caught the disease. The average rate of transmission for these ‘close contact’ travellers was 0.32 percent.

The study, in collaboration with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, China Academy of Electronics and Information Technology, and Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, also showed that passengers travelling in seats directly adjacent to an index patient suffered the highest level of transmission, with an average of 3.5 percent contracting the disease. For those sitting on the same row, the figure was 1.5 percent.

The ‘attack rate’ for each seat – the number of passengers in a given seat diagnosed with COVID-19, divided by the total number of passengers travelling in the same seat – increased by 0.15 percent for every hour that a person travelled with an index patient. For those in adjacent seats, this rate of increase was higher at 1.3 percent per hour.

Interestingly, the researchers found that only 0.075 percent of people who used a seat previously occupied by an index patient went on to contract the disease.

Details are published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases.


The WorldPop team, experts in population mapping, used sophisticated modelling to analyse anonymised itinerary and infection data relating to train passengers on China’s high-speed G train network. This included those who had COVID-19 at the time of travel and their close contacts (who showed symptoms within 14 days of travel). The data, covering a period between 19 December 2019 and 6 March 2020, included 2,334 index patients and 72,093 close contacts. Their travel times ranged from between less than an hour to eight hours.

Lead investigator, Dr Shengjie Lai, comments: “Our study shows that although there is an increased risk of COVID-19 transmission on trains, a person’s seat location and travel time in relation to an infectious person can make a big difference as to whether it is passed on. The findings suggest that during the COVID-19 epidemic it is important to reduce the density of passengers and promote personal hygiene measures, the use of face coverings and possibly carry-out temperature checks before boarding.”

The researchers conclude that given the attack rates estimated for passengers in the same row as an index patient, a safe social distance of more than one metre is required for one hour spent travelling together. After two hours of contact, they consider a distance of less than 2.5 metres may be insufficient to prevent transmission.

Director of WorldPop, Professor Andy Tatem adds: “Our research is the first to quantify the individual risk of COVID-19 transmission on public transport based on data from epidemiological investigations of disease cases and their close contacts on high-speed trains.It shows that the transmission risk not only relates to the distance from an infected person, but also the time in their presence. We hope it can help to inform authorities globally about measures needed to guard against the virus and in-turn help to reduce its spread.”
The RSSB has started work in this area.
 

AdamWW

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I cannot give a direct answer to the question posed by this thread but there is an old axiom that says,“What gets measured gets managed”. This report relates specifically on transmission during rail travel, It will probably prompt further studies. Taken from data carried on High Speed Trains in China – there will no doubt be a need for closer to home studies particularly on Commuter Services.

https://www.railbusinessdaily.com/study-reveals-covid-19-transmission-rate-on-trains/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Todays Rail News Raj Sinha joins SWGR as Group Managing Director&utm_content=Todays Rail News Raj Sinha joins

https://www.southampton.ac.uk/news/2020/07/train-transmission.page



The RSSB has started work in this area.
This is interesting and of course the risk-to-passengers is important in selling the railways as safe.

But if enough people want to come back, then the level of social distancing is key.

And here it becomes a political decision. As long as we're playing the keep-R-below-1 game, there are going to be trade-offs.

This sort of work gives the government the numbers they need in order to play the game, but just as in the now infamous pubs-vs-schools debate, they will have to decide how important it is to get people out of their cars (and, indeed, for people without cars to be able to travel freely).
 

yorksrob

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I cannot give a direct answer to the question posed by this thread but there is an old axiom that says,“What gets measured gets managed”. This report relates specifically on transmission during rail travel, It will probably prompt further studies. Taken from data carried on High Speed Trains in China – there will no doubt be a need for closer to home studies particularly on Commuter Services.

https://www.railbusinessdaily.com/study-reveals-covid-19-transmission-rate-on-trains/?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Todays Rail News Raj Sinha joins SWGR as Group Managing Director&utm_content=Todays Rail News Raj Sinha joins

https://www.southampton.ac.uk/news/2020/07/train-transmission.page



The RSSB has started work in this area.
If I'm understanding this correctly, even if you're sat next to someone who is found to have the virus, you still only have a risk in the low persentages of actually catching it - likely less if you're not in the same row/not travelling far/mitigations such as face coverings are in place.
 

AdamWW

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If I'm understanding this correctly, even if you're sat next to someone who is found to have the virus, you still only have a risk in the low persentages of actually catching it - likely less if you're not in the same row/not travelling far/mitigations such as face coverings are in place.
Yes this looks very encouraging to me in terms of individual safety, and multiplied by the current chance of any one person being infected suggests that becoming infected on a train is not something to be overly concerned about.

However, a lot of the measures currently in place are about reducing a small risk to an even smaller one to keep transmission down to an acceptable level, so I'd say it doesn't mean the government should choose to abandon social distancing on trains.
 

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