Rail (UK)


SYSTRA Busi­ness Direc­tor CHRIS POWNALL ex­plains how the com­pany is ad­vis­ing clients on changes in travel pat­terns

- Business · Transportation · Infectious Diseases · Industries · Health Conditions · United Kingdom · Boris Johnson · London · SYSTRA

In June 2019, the UK be­came the world’s first ma­jor econ­omy to pass a net zero emis­sions tar­get into law.

By com­mit­ting the UK to elim­i­nat­ing its con­tri­bu­tion to global green­house gas emis­sions by 2050, the leg­is­la­tion rep­re­sented a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion from a mo­tion passed by MPs just weeks ear­lier that de­clared an en­vi­ron­men­tal and cli­mate ‘emer­gency’.

Fast for­ward 18 months and we find our­selves in the grip of an ad­di­tional emer­gency cre­ated by the Coron­avirus public health cri­sis.

But far from threat­en­ing ef­forts to help the na­tion achieve its am­bi­tious net zero tar­get, our re­cov­ery from the pan­demic in­stead pro­vides an un­ex­pected op­por­tu­nity to de­car­bonise even more rapidly.

The Govern­ment’s re­newed com­mit­ment to re­duc­ing green­house gas emis­sions was summed up by Prime Min­is­ter Boris John­son on Oc­to­ber 6, when he said: “Now, as we build back bet­ter, we must build back greener.”

As the high­est car­bon diox­ide-emit­ting sec­tor in the coun­try, the trans­port in­dus­try is in pole po­si­tion to help turn this am­bi­tion into re­al­ity. But a strong re­turn of road traf­fic to near-nor­mal lev­els since the start of the pan­demic in March makes it more im­por­tant than ever that rail rises to this chal­lenge.

Not only does it need to be­come an even cleaner and greener mode of trans­port than it al­ready is, it must also ur­gently at­tract pas­sen­gers back to the net­work and away from more pol­lut­ing modes of trans­port.

To help un­der­stand the im­pli­ca­tions of Coron­avirus on public trans­port, and on the pre­vail­ing at­ti­tudes to work and travel, SYSTRA car­ried out two rounds of ex­ten­sive re­search ear­lier this year.

The most re­cent sur­vey con­ducted in June in­di­cated that 39% of pre-pan­demic public trans­port users will make fewer trips than be­fore, once all COVID-19 restric­tions are lifted.

This fig­ure in­creases to 59% of those who reg­u­larly com­muted by rail or bus, and 62% of those sur­veyed in Lon­don.

En­cour­ag­ingly, the sur­vey also showed that 68% of re­spon­dents would feel safer us­ing public trans­port through the use of safety mea­sures such as the strict en­force­ment of so­cial dis­tanc­ing and deep clean­ing of sta­tions and ve­hi­cles.

SYSTRA Busi­ness Direc­tor Chris Pownall ex­plains: “In each sur­vey we talked to about 1,500 peo­ple across dif­fer­ent set­tings, roles, jobs and con­texts around the coun­try. The sec­ond sur­vey in June was par­tic­u­larly in­ter­est­ing, as we fo­cused on the long-term im­pacts of the pan­demic on how peo­ple work.

“One of the key things for the rail sec­tor is the move we were al­ready see­ing to­wards peo­ple trav­el­ling to of­fices on fewer days of the week. 62% of of­fice work­ers told us they usu­ally com­muted five days a week be­fore the pan­demic, but only 26% thought they were likely to go back to the same pat­tern once a vac­cine is avail­able.

“The sur­vey was there­fore im­por­tant to not only un­der­stand the im­pact of Coron­avirus on travel by public trans­port, but also around some of the ac­tions that peo­ple would like to see in or­der to feel more re­as­sured and to re­turn to us­ing rail, as a lot of us be­gin to work more flex­i­bly.”

To help train op­er­at­ing com­pa­nies (TOCs) more ef­fec­tively re­spond to the sur­vey re­sults and the chang­ing de­mand for rail travel, SYSTRA has em­ployed ad­vanced Sce­nario Plan­ning tech­niques to help its clients map out dif­fer­ent po­ten­tial ver­sions of the fu­ture.

Sce­nario Plan­ning cre­ates a range of dif­fer­ent po­ten­tial ver­sions of the fu­ture. SYSTRA can model what pas­sen­ger de­mand and us­age of the trans­port net­work will look like un­der these dif­fer­ence sce­nar­ios, en­abling op­er­a­tors and pol­i­cy­mak­ers to make in­tel­li­gent plan­ning de­ci­sions ac­cord­ingly.

Pownall adds: “Clearly there is go­ing to be a big change in the way peo­ple be­have around public trans­port, and one of the big things we’ve been do­ing over the years is fore­cast­ing pas­sen­ger de­mand. It’s go­ing to be dif­fi­cult to pre­dict for the next few years, but one of the ap­proaches we are tak­ing to re­duce that un­cer­tainty is to look at dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios that might re­sult from the pan­demic.

“With one TOC we’ve re­cently done a sce­nario plan­ning ex­er­cise look­ing at four dif­fer­ent ver­sions of the fu­ture, where you have a weak or strong re­turn to travel, and then what sort of strate­gies a TOC might need to op­ti­mise their busi­ness un­der those sorts of cir­cum­stances.

“In a high car-us­age sce­nario, you might need to look at car park­ing and de­vel­op­ing eas­ier-to-ac­cess rail­heads, be­cause think­ing about how peo­ple get to the sta­tion might be key to keep­ing up rail’s share of the mar­ket in

that sit­u­a­tion.”

To help sup­port TOCs re­spond to changes in de­mand, SYSTRA has also been us­ing its mod­el­ling skills to de­velop flexi-sea­son ticket prod­ucts that are at­trac­tive and cost-ef­fec­tive to pas­sen­gers while also pro­tect­ing prod­uct yield for op­er­a­tors.

A large num­ber of TOCs have now de­vel­oped and brought more flex­i­ble tick­et­ing prod­ucts to mar­ket, while the Govern­ment is ex­pected to con­sider more whole­sale re­form to fares and tick­et­ing in the near fu­ture.

SYSTRA has also worked with trans­port providers, in­clud­ing HS2 Ltd, to de­velop Sta­tion Travel Plans that look ahead to fu­ture de­mand and fur­ther en­hance rail’s stand­ing as a sus­tain­able mode of trans­port.

“If peo­ple are go­ing to choose rail, then the way they get to the sta­tion needs to be greener. We there­fore pro­duce Sta­tion Travel Plans for TOCs that en­cour­age walk­ing and cy­cling, rather than the car,” adds Pownall.

“It’s about look­ing at fa­cil­i­ties at sta­tions and lock­ing in good be­hav­iours for get­ting to ex­ist­ing sta­tions or ones that haven’t been built yet, like we’ve done with HS2.

“For HS2, you’re also think­ing about sta­tions as des­ti­na­tions. You look at re­tail, the sta­tion’s pur­pose and sense of place, and mak­ing it some­where that peo­ple want to be, and then how it links with lo­cal trans­port so that peo­ple use these sta­tions in a green way.

“King’s Cross is very much mar­keted as a des­ti­na­tion sta­tion, and it’s about try­ing to cap­ture that con­cept else­where on HS2.”

As well as how we travel to and use sta­tions, SYSTRA also recog­nises that the way we buy mo­bil­ity ser­vices is chang­ing.

The com­pany is at the fore­front of a num­ber of trial schemes for the Mo­bil­ity as a Ser­vice (MaaS) con­cept, whereby trans­port op­er­a­tors and mo­bil­ity providers of­fer in­te­grated pack­ages of in­for­ma­tion and ser­vices.

As a re­sult of its real-world ex­pe­ri­ence, SYSTRA is cur­rently ad­vis­ing a range of clients on the eco­nomic and prac­ti­cal is­sues of such ar­range­ments.

Pownall ex­plains: “We are help­ing clients to work out the fea­si­bil­ity of MaaS schemes and solve some of the prac­ti­cal prob­lems around shar­ing in­for­ma­tion and pay­ment means within a sin­gle plat­form on an in­ter­net­con­nected de­vice.

“It goes be­yond rail, as you want de­man­drespon­sive trans­port to get you to the sta­tion. And if you can get that all joined up, then you have a re­ally at­trac­tive of­fer to de­ter peo­ple from driv­ing the car.”

 ?? SYSTRA. ?? SYSTRA is help­ing train op­er­a­tors to pre­pare for changes in de­mand that are hard to pre­dict, with a range of Sce­nario Plan­ning tools.
SYSTRA. SYSTRA is help­ing train op­er­a­tors to pre­pare for changes in de­mand that are hard to pre­dict, with a range of Sce­nario Plan­ning tools.

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