Transport Trends for 2021
Everything in our lives has been affected by the pandemic this year, but one of the most seismic shifts has been in transport, where customer habits that were largely unchanged for decades have radically altered overnight. Not since the 1970s, when car ownership became the norm for most households, have we seen such such a change in people’s transportation routines.
Prior to the pandemic the government was pushing forward with plans to revitalise public transport, including the introduction of Clean Air Zones, as part of an initiative to cut net carbon emissions. While this is still a clear priority for the government, their messaging has had to change from ‘leave the car and take public transport’ to ‘leave the car and cycle or walk’ due to the risk factors associated with crowds of commuters journeying to work together. The good news for the environment is that in general far fewer journeys are taking place, due to the trend for working from home. However, when journeys do happen people are more likely to take their car than risk a bus or train ride. Walking and cycling in the summer are one thing, but at this time of year in the cold and the dark are a considerably less appealing prospect! The government’s commitment to encouraging the use of electric vehicles may be the thing that rebalances the environmental impact of reduced public transport usage – with tax breaks for electric company cars, and the massive expansion of free charging points across the country in the last year set to expand electric vehicle ownership exponentially.
Given that there is now less pressure on public transport networks, and less travel in general, 2021 presents a golden opportunity for local authorities to completely redefine transport in their area to better fit residents’ needs and protect the environment in which they live.
Until a vaccine is in place, it is likely that commuters will be looking for alternatives to public transport, and it is possible that we will see increased e-bike and e-scooter usage in 2021, once the weather improves! There is also likely to be increasing demand for car clubs and other vehicle subscription services, so that households without cars (or those who want to ditch their car now that they are making fewer journeys) can have access to vehicles on the odd occasions that they need to make a significant journey.
There will always be people who need to use public transport, and we are likely to see bus, train and tram transport reimagined for the post-Covid world. Stations and stops may need to be redesigned to promote social distancing, and there may be a cap on the number of people allowed on any one service rather than the pre-pandemic ‘cram them in until the doors won’t shut’ attitude! (Anyone who has taken the Stourbridge train line to Birmingham, or the tram from Wolverhampton to Birmingham during peak commuting hours will be all too familiar with this scenario!). Public transport networks may also start sharing much more real-time data with their customers. The Trainline app already lets customers know which carriages of each train are least busy, and demand for this type of information is only going to rise post-pandemic. Customers will not just be looking for the ‘next’ or ‘quickest’ service, but the ‘safest’ option.