Messaging is all important
While bus operators are bending over backwards to implement social distancing as the lockdown begins to ease, airlines have started up again and have blatantly ignored such strictures. The government continues to urge people not to use buses (and presumably coaches) unless they have absolutely no alternative, yet it is silent about airline passengers.
It doesn’t take a genius, or even much of a scientist, to work out that being cooped up in an aeroplane for a few hours crammed in next to fellow passengers is likely to pose far more risk than a short trip on a bus.
And what is the result of this crazy policy? Predictable increases in traffic congestion leading to TfL having to increase congestion charges as it notes traffic is already back to pre-lockdown levels – and this is while huge numbers of people are still working from home and not travelling at all.
As we emerge from the pandemic, the battle over road space and the resulting impact on air pollution and climate change is going to reignite with a vengeance. The bus and coach industry will need to redouble efforts to promote public transport as the clean and green option and seek alliances with local authority partners and others to help ensure that we don’t escape from lockdown simply to transition into a world where the car is once again king.
As we entered lockdown, the government was successful in highlighting a simple message: stay at home. As we start to recover, it needs to have an equally powerful message: choose a low- or zero-carbon option for travel unless you have absolutely no alternative and your journey is essential.