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by David Sidebottom
02 June 2021
Associate feature: An independent consumer voice for transport users

Associate feature: An independent consumer voice for transport users

Transport Focus is the independent watchdog for transport users. We aim to amplify the voice of transport users.

Everything we do is supported by evidence to find out what matters to transport users, to help make sure they aren’t missing out, or to help them get a better service.

Over the last twelve months we have conducted over 70,000 interviews with transport users.

All of this work was summarised in a recent report ‘Travel during COVID-19: key lessons for 2021 and beyond’. A strong theme is the need as travel re-starts, to rebuild and reinforce confidence.

Transport Focus has been listening to passengers to understand what they need to feel safe and confident to travel. As restrictions ease and passenger numbers increase, we are urging transport operators to ensure they are ready to welcome more people back to using public transport again.

We have found the majority of passengers using public transport have felt safe, in relation to COVID-19, when travelling. However, less than half of people who have not used public transport say they would feel safe if they made a journey.

This gap between experience and perceptions reflects the efforts public transport operators have made to help their passengers travel with confidence and feel safe.

This also highlights the shift in some people’s attitudes and the challenge operators may face when trying to attract people to return to public transport in future.

Transport Focus research confirms we should not expect a quick return to the ‘old normal’ for public transport, with hopes that more space onboard, improved cleanliness and sanitation will remain even post-COVID.

Meanwhile the pandemic has prompted changes to how people work, with our insight confirming many people expect to work from home more and commute to workplaces less often in future.

We have also been digging deeper into our survey work using new segmentation analysis, breaking the population down into five groups according to key behaviours and attitudes.

We will use this to show how different segments respond to concepts, messaging, incentives and initiatives as restrictions ease and rules change in the coming weeks and months.

Transport Focus is undertaking work that provides a deep understanding of experiences, perceptions and rational and emotional needs that influence whether people are willing to travel by bus currently and in the future.

Our upcoming research will look to understand the experience of bus passengers during the COVID pandemic and why people are not travelling and what would encourage passengers to return.

We are also undertaking an interim rail survey. The key objective of this project is to gain an understanding of the current and likely future rail landscape, from a passenger perspective.

This will help us understand current passenger experience and satisfaction and passengers’ top priorities.

Transport Focus has also been working, through the Rail Recovery Task Force, with ScotRail, Network Rail and Transport Scotland to implement a range of measures to enable passengers to make essential journeys during the pandemic.

The Task Force has also worked with Serco Caledonian Sleeper, cross border and freight operators, and British Transport Police to ensure consistency of information to passengers.

At this time as we need to continue to build passenger confidence and flexibility in our transport system.

Transport Focus is working to ensure that, as we emerge from the pandemic, we are as useful as possible and continue to make a difference. You can never go wrong talking to transport users.

David Sidebottom is director at the independent watchdog Transport Focus.

This article was sponsored by Transport Focus.

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