As the British economy slowly reawakens - people are returning to work in greater numbers. With social distancing remaining a prevalent aspect of our day-to-day lives; the capacity of the country’s public-transport system has been reduced to between 30 and 70 precent of pre-pandemic levels.
Underground rail systems are seeing the steepest reductions. Transport of London (the government body responsible for the public-transportation system in Greater London), estimate that even with the new ‘1m-plus’ rule, the London tube network will only be able to carry 26 to 30 percent of its regular capacity – even at full service.
With these physical limitations on public buses and trains, as well as the post-lockdown public anxiety; more commuters are choosing to drive, leading to congested roads. This could create issues for the haulage industry.
Word on the streets
According to the RAC foundation (The Royal Automobile Club Foundation for Monitor) – prior to the pandemic, 15.3m people across England and Wales drove themselves to work every day, with a further 1.4m catching a lift. In Britain’s urban environments outside of London, 67% of people utilised a car when travelling to work – this figure is nearly three quarters (73%) in rural areas.
Despite its vast underground network; the car is still London’s most popular mode of transport, used by 30% of workers, according to pre-COVID-19 figures. A study conducted in early March found that Britons waste an average of 115 hours a year stuck in traffic – a figure that is likely to rise with the predicted influx of cars on roads.
Westminster University’s professor of transport, Rachel Aldred, has conducted a study revealing that unless local authorities make it significantly easier to cycle to work safely – the overall percentage of people who drive will increase from 60% to 70%. This means that there will be an estimated 1.6m more cars on the road.
London is already the eighth most congested city in the world, but ATA (Active Travel Academy) estimates that car usage in the capital could rise by as much as 22%. Such an increase in driving would not only generate vast amounts of traffic – but also contribute to air pollution and further road accidents.
Get on your bike!
Last month’s announcement from the government, revealed a spending allocation of £225m for local authorities. This allows for the creation of pop-up cycle lanes with protected space for cycling, as well as wider pavements and safer junctions.
These rapid changes to road layouts, instigated by the current crisis, provide relief for cities plagued by fears of potential congestion. By providing cyclists with an extra level of safety and enabling people to walk to work at an adequate distance; up to half of all public transport journeys (those of 10km or less), could be made on bike or on foot. This would result in up to 2 million more active journeys than before the pandemic.
The government’s encouragement of cyclists isn’t great news for the haulage industry. The controversial London Lorry Control Scheme has been reintroduced – an arrangement part of the Mayor’s ‘Vision Zero’; aiming to eliminate all deaths and serious injuries caused by the capital’s transport system. While the intention to pedestrianise the city is undoubtedly noble – the strict measures placed on heavy goods vehicles limits efficiency of operations for countless logistics firms.
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