An extract from a GHD article: The ticket to getting public transport back on track - GHD
By Jonathan Edwards, September 2021
As we all know, the last 18 months have presented numerous challenges for public transport, as dramatically decreased passenger numbers and the requirement for social distancing have led to many operators struggling to stay afloat. The recently published National Travel Survey 2020 showed how out of sync travel behaviours have become from the “norm”, highlighting another serious issue: how can operators now accurately forecast demand for public transport services and prepare accordingly?
In the current environment, operators will have to go back to the drawing board as historic and recent data offers no insight into how to plan for the post-Covid landscape. Data on expected passengers, peak times, season tickets and subsequent income from fares typically informs planning regarding ticket pricing, staffing, scheduling, investment and budgets. Operators must now make these decisions essentially blind - and rail operators have the added complication of the William-Schapps Plan.
This uncertainty means the long hoped-for developments in our public sector transport could be stalled, as operators are less able to deploy the required capital expenditure and government funding is being used to keep as-is services running. The modernisation of our bus and rail network and plans to improve passenger experience and value for money could yet again be delayed. This undermines progress at a time when operators need to provide the best possible service to encourage travellers back to public transport.