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Coronavirus: Public transport demand impacted ‘significantly’

London bus on Westminster Bridge

Public transport demand is expected to be impacted significantly by coronavirus fears in the short-term, new research suggests.

It shows that almost half (44%) of adults would avoid using it even when lockdown restrictions are eased, while 48% would want social distancing measures to remain in place, were they to continue using it.

The poll results, from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE), comes as a new survey by independent UK watchdog Transport Focus reveals that 60% of the 2,000 respondents would rather drive than use public transport once travel restrictions are relaxed, raising concerns over emissions, air quality and congestion.

More than half of British adults in the ICE study said they expect employers to increase the frequency of remote working (61%), redesign workstations to maintain social distancing measures (53%) or incentivise flexible working to limit the number of people in offices (59%).

ICE has published a new research paper as part of its Covid-19 and the 'New Normal' for Infrastructure Systems project.

The programme aims to understand what lessons can be learned from changes to society, caused by the pandemic, for infrastructure priorities as well as how the infrastructure sector will need to deliver the nation’s priorities differently in the future.

Chris Richards, ICE policy director, explained: “It’s important we listen to the public and adapt our infrastructure systems to support society achieve post-Covid outcomes.

“This initial evidence from the public warrants a rapid review of transport programmes to see what, if anything, may need reprioritising to meet the needs of the post-lockdown, pre-vaccine phase of recovery.

“The post-Covid social reality remains unclear, so we need to also look at how we deliver infrastructure differently to enable us to respond quickly as uncertainty gives way to reality.

"Infrastructure professionals have an opportunity to outline how we can alter our infrastructure delivery, which is why we urge our membership, industry professionals and other stakeholders to make their voices heard in our consultation process over the coming weeks.”

The paper, The Use of Infrastructure Systems – Insights into the New Normal, is part of a consultation launched by the Institution, on behalf of the Infrastructure Client Group.

The consultation will help inform an advisory white paper as part of the wider research project.

It looks to understand the role of infrastructure in society’s recovery from Covid-19, with experts from across the sector already anticipating changes based on public opinion and habits around transport, social distancing and remote working.

As well as the possible reprioritisation of transport programmes, the ‘new normal’ could require an accelerated delivery of digital infrastructure, the potential repurposing of obsolete inner-city office space as housing due to increased remote working and a greater number of spaces designed for safe walking and cycling within cities, it said.

Those wishing to contribute are encouraged to read the Green Paper and the questions raised within it, before adding their contribution prior to the closing date of 14 June.

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