2020 is proving to be a year of great challenges to the nation. The lock-down, an essential move in the face of a pandemic is meaning a fundamental change to the way we operate, both in an economic and social sense. The use of transport is being put into great perspective with less reliance on car use and people working from home. Only essential journeys are being made and more people are walking and cycling rather than just jumping into a car for even a short trips. Bus and Rail companies are coping as best they can with government support. Services have had to be thinned, given the dramatic drop in travel, e.g. West Midlands Trains reports a 90% drop in passenger numbers.
Air quality has perceptively improved commensurate with a considerable reduction in traffic. But post lock-down where will all this lead? With climate change set to take centre stage post emergency and post Brexit, the government is making some positive noises in their rhetoric. The Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is noted as recently saying:
‘People in the UK need to shift from cars to public transport to address the challenge of climate change. Public transport and active travel will be the natural first choice for our daily activities. We will use our cars less and be able to rely on a convenient, cost-effective and coherent public transport network.’
These words, in the foreword of the government’s consultation document on ‘De-carbonising Transport,’ have astonished transport campaigners. As some sceptics point out, this is just rhetoric at the moment. But it cannot be denied that there is a groundswell of concern taking place over climate change. If the current crisis adds fuel in so far that car use can be consciously reduced and public transport consciously improved with government financial support, then the challenges may yet bring about positive action. We shall see.
Rail & Bus is at the forefront of moves to improve public transport. As a founder member of the Herefordshire Sustainable Transport Group (HSTG), Rail & Bus is instrumental in producing a number of important reports on the future of public transport in Herefordshire. These reports, under the imprint of Sustainable Transport Herefordshire (STA) now appear on the RBfH website. Do keep an eye on our website rbfh.org.uk.
A safe Easter to you all.
Gareth Calan Davies (Transport Geographer)
RBfH and STA