Sunday 12th April 2020
Bus and train
1 Will companies encourage many of their employees to continue working from home thereby reducing the need for costly offices/work spaces with a consequential reduction in travel demand, particularly at peak times?
2 Will the significant increase in online shopping continue at Covid-19 levels with a consequential reduction in travel demand?
3 Will a fear of travelling on public transport in proximity to others in a confined space, particularly until widespread vaccination is available, reduce travel demand – especially among the vulnerable and aged?
4 Will the upcoming severe economic recession with high unemployment and many people facing personal financial hardship mean a significant reduction in travel demand from pre pandemic levels?
5 Will the cheap price of petrol and diesel encourage people to use cars more than before the pandemic together with shorter journey times from initial reductions in congestion levels as road traffic builds back up gradually?
6 Will the new management contract arrangements and associated bureaucracy limit train companies’ ability to implement rational decisions on re-establishing service levels as passenger journeys build back only gradually?
7 Will the new management contract arrangements stymie train companies’ ability to make innovative price adjustments (eg tempting fare offers) to encourage greater travel?
8 Will First Group and Arriva be financially strong enough to facilitate the return of their suspended open access train companies (Hull Trains and Grand Central) and resurrect previous expansion plans (London-Blackpool and London-Edinburgh)?
9 Will Train Operating Companies be happy to continue receiving only a 1.5%-2% margin from running the management contracts?
10 Will HS2, predicated on the need to increase capacity, be subject to a further review on the grounds of post pandemic reduced travel demand and its affordability in a recession; or alternatively be seen as a job creation boost to the economy and continue unchanged. Similar observations re investment in Northern Powerhouse Rail and East-West Rail.
11 Will TfL’s ailing finances with the loss of revenue, lack of fares increases and further delays to Crossrail be bailed out by Government?
12 Will financial support from central Government (BSOG and additional coronavirus funding) and local Government (enhanced concessionary fares reimbursement) continue for a significant length of time including as travel restrictions are eased?
13 Will government want greater control over service levels as that necessary funding continues meaning commercial decision making by bus companies is hampered?
14 Will large bus companies be able to satisfy enough of their shareholders the reduced profit levels likely for the foreseeable future are sufficient to maintain their commitment to the companies?
15 Will central Government be prepared to step in with further funding and support for the bus industry as it struggles to match the perceived necessary supply way in excess of the reduced demand?
16 Will Government fund a campaign to encourage use of public transport once travel restrictions are lifted to negate the ‘Avoid Public Transport’ message put out during the lockdown?
17 Will bus companies be creative and innovative in encouraging passengers back to bus travel with extensive marketing campaigns and price offers?
18 Will bus manufacturers and other supply side manufacturing and service companies survive as bus companies cut back investment and capital expenditure?
19 Will local authorities be quick footed enough (and have the political courage) to take advantage of reduced traffic and pollution levels in towns and cities to implement emergency (leading to permanent) bus priority measures to ensure, as travel restrictions are eased, car traffic doesn’t return to previous levels with its consequential negative impact on climate change?
20 With widespread availability of a vaccine for Covid-19 many months away are the above questions far too premature and with passenger journeys on buses and trains likely to continue at minimal levels for the foreseeable future is it more practical and financially more sensible to withdraw all current bus and train services and instead operate subsidised taxis (subject to rigorous hygiene standards and emergency protective screening for drivers installed as per supermarket checkouts) for authorised travel purposes only?
Photo: Hassocks station car park last week – completely empty. Never seen like this before; ever. Four trains per hour are running between Brighton and Victoria or Bedford.
I used to run a bus company but in retirement enjoy Britain’s splendid scenic delights travelling by bus and train, and commenting along the way.