3 min read

Lockdown has had many of us firmly sat under lock and key, with statistics showing nearly half of people in employment able to work from home in some capacity. So, from a decrease on the tubes to a potential future increase on the roads, what does this mean for the world of British transport? As it turns out, potentially, quite a big deal.

How has commuting changed?

Picturing a peak London commute without the expected hordes of workers and grumbled delays would have seemed impossible pre-global crisis. But that’s exactly what happened once lockdown was introduced.

On 21 May 2020, British transport statistics highlighted that bus use was 87% down from normal levels, while passenger numbers on National Rail remained down by 95%. As for the tube? Figures were down by a whopping 93%. Early lockdown predictions also advised that the number of people using public transport in Britain’s cities could be 20% lower than normal after the end of the coronavirus lockdown. 

Key changes to habits

A study by the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) says that preferences for remote working post-lockdown will see a change in pre-pandemic infrastructure demand patterns. The study shows that 61% of UK adults support increasing the frequency of remote working with 32% wishing to transition to a permanent at-home working environment where possible. 

Further to this, 59% supported the opportunity to incentivise flexible working to limit the number of people in the workplace at all times with 44% likely to avoid travelling on public transport networks.

As the world begins to get back on its business feet, so does the uptake in public transport. Good news for the economy but potentially bad for the environment? Not necessarily. In fact, changes to British transport habits will look set to change long term when it comes to the daily commute. 

A survey conducted by UK lift-sharing platform, Liftshare, found that almost half of their members will be adapting their work commute post lockdown. Key findings in relation to commuting habits include:

  • WFH to increase by 552%
  • Cycling to increase by 71%
  • Walking to increase by 8%
  • Lift sharing to fall by 6%
  • Train travel to decrease by 36%
  • Bus travel to decrease by 30%
  • Driving alone to decrease by 20%

And what about the cycling world? During lockdown, the UK has seen up to a 200% increase in those dusting off their two wheels and hitting the streets. 

With the noted health benefits associated with this type of travel, workers are being encouraged to mix up their commute as well as making use of the Cycle to Work scheme. 

What about bigger projects?

The very nature of lockdown has meant certain work has been placed on hold. So what does this mean for larger transport projects such as HS2? Even though construction work was given the green light to continue, in line with the Government’s COVID-19 strategy, work at some of the intended sites was paused pending review. 

But it’s not all bad. In fact, some projects are benefitting from the lowly numbers of daily commuters. In fact, back in May 2020, Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced that certain maintenance works would see a push forward, saying, “To help those who do have to use public transport or get out on the roads to do their jobs, we’ve been accelerating infrastructure upgrades to make sure that, as we gradually reopen our society, everyone can benefit from smoother and safer journeys with better connections to our future.”

Just what will the future hold when it comes to traditional commuting habits? As we continue to live our lives in an adjusted manner, it’s difficult to say, but the numbers are starting to speak for themselves. From the chance to save money and connect in a virtual sense to the pursuit of personal goals and a real focus on work-life balance, things look set to change for good.