The unplanned rapid demise of road traffic and other transport resulting from Covid-19 is a great boost to the environment, highlighting what could be achieved with progressive and sustainable transport policies for road, rail, sea and air. Removing traffic congestion and pollution has been beneficial to everyone, with cleaner air, less noise, reliable deliveries and so on.
It won’t stay this way but it has been good to see what a drastic reduction in demand looks like and also the increased walking and cycling.
The lack of financial support for airlines by the Government is entirely reasonable and is a move towards clearer skies and cleaner air. Similarly at a standstill, the cruiseliner business has boomed but is now bust for the time being with huge ships no longer consuming vast quantities of fuel to satisfy the lust for leisure.
The pandemic could be the start of a ‘decline and provide’ approach – in which we plan for fewer air miles, less consumption of resources, and a true balance between environmental rhetoric and action.
Alongside this should be the heavy promotion of rail and bus services once we have learned how to deal with social distancing. It certainly points the way towards ‘decide and provide’ with a much greater emphasis on the ‘decide’ part of the process.
Coach operators, an overlooked sector, are facing significant problems. Many of them, especially the smaller ones, will go out of business due to their market collapsing. This will be to the detriment of home-to-school services with fewer tenderers and higher prices, a loss of contracted journeys for larger businesses to get their staff to work, fewer scheduled services for people travelling to airports and student travel, plus the many leisure-related activities they enable. It also means that operators who provide both coach services and local bus services will shrink to survive. All in all, it’s an unpalatable picture with many expensive vehicles doing not very much or in most cases nothing.
On the plus side, freight services are temporarily avoiding the congestion caused by unfettered car use. Given the huge shortage of drivers in the freight and delivery sectors, there may be job opportunities for those who have been ejected from their current roles.
Behind this is the point that we don’t actually need many of the items that we are inclined to buy. Therefore it doesn’t need to be carried anywhere – recent prioritisation suggests that some journeys and consignments are more important than others but also prompts a move to a more sustainable culture.
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