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London’s transport system needs an emergency cash lifeline or recovery will stall
17 May 2021
New report highlights shift in passenger behaviours and need for long-term public transport challenges to be tackled
As the deadline for Transport for London’s cash grant looms, London First is calling for the Government and Mayor to agree a new emergency deal to keep the capital moving and to work together to agree a long-term sustainable funding package. It comes as the business group unveils a new report which shines a light on how passenger behaviour is changing as a result of the pandemic, and how public transport provision will need to continue to adapt to meet changing needs and expectations.
The report, How will we use public transport post-COVID?, pinpoints the next 12 months as a crucial time for Transport for London (TfL), as a combination of changing behaviours — and the gradual exit from the pandemic — mean that as well as adapting to changing circumstances, it must be put on a long-term sustainable financial footing to remain viable.
The report includes a range of ‘passenger profiles’, that break down how different groups might travel in the future, from those actively commuting on a daily basis and those who will commute but only once or twice a week, to those who will stay within their local area with little need to travel and those new viewing travel into the capital as more of a day trip; a full breakdown is given in the report. The report analyses the impacts of these preferences on both the capital itself and on transport revenue, concluding that transport network — into and across the city — cannot operate on the basis of pre-pandemic assumptions about consumer behaviour.
The trends these profiles reflect include:
Changes to how we work, with an increased number of people no longer governed by fixed working hours or workplaces, which creates less predictable travel times;
Growing demand for real-time travel information, with passengers seeking more choice readily available within one platform;
The need for public transport to respond to changing expectations to avoid alternative choices being made and becoming permanent e.g. single person car journeys;
More people making active travel choices, like walking and cycling, alongside the willingness to adopt new, emerging ‘green’ technologies.
The report makes clear that the transport network must be sustainably funded to be able to adapt to changing demands, as these pandemic-related shifts in behaviour only further underline the problem of a system over-reliant on fare income. These shifts mean that City Hall and Westminster need to think differently about how public transport networks are funded and operated in the future, with sustainability at the heart of those plans.
The report puts forward a number of short- and long-term actions to ensure public transport’s long-term future, including:
Extending TfL’s emergency funding deal, until a long-term agreement is struck and until the profile of future use becomes clearer;
A well-funded major, coordinated, campaign to reassure and re-engage transport users, demonstrating that the network is safe and ready to use again, whatever their travel preferences;
The need to continue to encourage active travel options like walking and cycling;
The importance of harnessing data to integrate passenger-facing information, to make it easier for passengers to use. This would require collaboration between all transport providers on a similar level to the Citymapper app;
More flexible ticketing options to encourage public transport use into the capital;
Improved collaboration between boroughs in London and city regions, to eliminate friction between different services, as the patterns of travel change;
The start of a serious conversation on the future use of roads, including road pricing, given the challenges that exist, from overcrowding and pollution to electrification, to avoid a car-based recovery.
Adam Tyndall, Programme Director for Transport at London First, said:
“London does not work without public transport – and without a thriving capital, the UK will not rebound strongly from the pandemic.
“TfL’s traditional funding model, with its over-reliance on fares compared to other global cities, was already under pressure before the pandemic and the changes to how we live and work and their impact on the transport system cannot be ignored – from flexible working to the use of e‑bikes and e‑scooters.
“While there are many different types of public transport users, all expect reliability and flexibility, which will be key to getting people back into the capital to support the recovery. That’s why TfL needs a long-term funding deal which takes account of changing passenger needs.”
The report shows seven different passenger profiles and how these groups might use the public transport network, capturing both their needs and the impacts of their choices on the capital’s priorities and revenues.
Transport for London has shared its latest updates here, including details of its enhanced cleaning regime, current ridership levels and advice on when to travel.
Tune in to series one and two of What Next for London? to hear views on London, our Covid-19 recovery and more