There is no doubt, the way we are using public and shared transport has changed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, this country cannot, and will not, achieve our legal commitments to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 without a fully functioning, effective public and sustainable transport network. And it is upon all of us: users, operators, transport planners, policy makers and funders to support that, creating a system that is fit for the 21st century.
As we look to the future, technology, lifestyles, and changed expectations are all framing the way we travel and the choices we make. COVID-19 has brought forward changes that may have otherwise taken years to come to fruition. But, one thing that has not changed is that central to all transport planning is one thing: the user.
All too often transport professionals base investment decisions on what has happened in the past. It is a common risk that little consideration is given to whether those travel patterns existed because there was no alternative. Travel choices will also be affected by a complex web of decisions, such as time constraints, cost constraints, lack of information or even perceptions of safety or risk.
England's Economic Heartland is a varied region: 34% of its population live in market towns and their rural hinterlands, yet we also have large historic cities, and new growing communities.
Together, communities in the region move around more than the national average, undertaking complex polycentric journeys that cannot be mapped or managed simply. However, if the region is to achieve its growth ambitions while still delivering its sustainability and decarbonisation commitments, people need to be able to travel seamlessly around – with certainty that they can safely and easily access transport services regardless of where they start and finish.
England's Economic Heartland has put the user at the centre of its draft Transport Strategy. Working with partners, we have created a detailed understanding of the types of people living within all of our communities. Using Experian's MOSAIC data, we know people's work, travel and technology preferences and we have mapped those preferences against the current provision of public and active travel in their communities. This level of understanding of people has allowed us to set our ambition for a transport system that suits the needs of our varied communities both now, and also in the future. It is a new way of planning for strategic connectivity but it is, already, levering significant benefits for us and partners across the region.
In order to mark the creation of the tool, England's Economic Heartland is intending to run a demonstration in the week commencing 21 September. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest.
Naomi Green is EEH Head of Programme