A new report put together for the Department for Transport (DfT) has shown there is a long-term desire for remote working and low levels of interest for previous commuting routines.
The All Change Tracker report has been put together following 30 "in-depth" qualitative interviews aimed to supplement the findings of two quantitative surveys that had already been conducted with over 4,000 respondants during lockdown.
Transport planners should take note that: "Participants said that nothing would encourage them to return to full-time daily commuting if they had the choice to work from home, although there were those who would consider travelling to the work place occasionally, for specific meetings or social purposes, or one or two days a week.
"There was, nonetheless, some recognition of the potential productivity and social benefits of being at one’s workplace surrounded by colleagues."
There was an expectation that businesses and the Government will accept a broad societal shift away from the workplace, because large scale working from home has been proven to be a viable alternative.
Participants predicted larger societal changes with workplaces becoming less central to working life and to cities, and overall transport levels reducing.
Barriers still exist for active travel growth
While active travel was embraced by the 30 interviewees during lockdown, the DfT said the benefits are still insufficient to outwiegh the percieved barriers of time, distance, personal safety and poor weather.
The report said: "Fears about road safety and a lack of confidence were key barriers to cycling specifically, and participants highlighted improved cycle infrastructure as a potential motivator.
"Participants who work night shifts or finish work late in the evening said that active travel is not something they would have the energy to do or feel comfortable doing at night."
Participants made suggestions for improving sustainable transport options:
- Reduce the cost of trains. Participants said that they found it cheaper to drive and book a hotel than get a train from London to Cornwall. Another said that the cost of a train ticket to see family in Wales had “shot up” by £100 during the pandemic.
- Investing in infrastructure for and decreasing the cost of hybrid and electric cars. Participants felt both of these actions were urgently needed to make eco-friendly cars a more affordable and practical option for those that wish to continue to drive or live rurally and so have limited alternative options to driving.
- Improve the sustainability, reliability and experience of public transport, especially in rural areas. As well as the cost barriers, public transport was seen as less convenient, less direct, and less comfortable than driving.
- There were participants who felt that trains had not been invested into the same extent as some local bus services, which in comparison were seen to have transitioned to hybrid vehicles, more efficient and reliable services, better communication and updates and easier ways to pay.
- Improve active travel options by building more cycle lanes in urban and rural areas. This would ensure that they are safe and that potential new cyclists know that they are safe. It was also suggested that e-scooters should be made more widely available and affordable.
- Reduce the need for as many journeys by encouraging and supporting flexible working and improving the amenities and shops available locally so that those outside urban areas don’t need to travel farther afield.