Study reveals how COVID-19 legacy could release roads capacity

July 20th 2021

New research commissioned by England’s Economic Heartland reveals how the legacy of COVID-19 could transform capacity on the region’s roads.

If people who commuted by car pre-COVID but are now working from home were to continue to do so for two days per week, 10-12% of peak hour traffic would be removed.

The modelling by City Science also shows how the impact differs across the Heartland due to differences in demographics, the sector-mix in the local economy, and the flows of specific roads.

The launch of the report, Working from Home Propensity & Capacity Release, comes as government ends its instruction to people to work from home if possible, following the easing of restrictions as England moves to the fourth step of the lockdown roadmap.

EEH’s transport strategy, published in February, is clear that a step-change in approach is required to realise a world class transport system which supports the economy while achieving net zero emissions by as early as 2040. One of the strategy’s priorities is to champion digital technologies to make transport smarter while reducing the need to travel.

Prior to the pandemic just over 25% of the country’s workforce had some experience of working from home with around 12% doing so at least once per week. During the pandemic the number of days working from home quadrupled.

The new research, which is available on the EEH website, will help inform strategic infrastructure planning throughout the region, which stretches from Swindon across to Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire down to Hertfordshire. This includes EEH’s programme of connectivity studies, starting with the Oxford-Milton Keynes and Peterborough-Northampton-Oxford corridors. EEH is also looking to engage with the business community to understand their perspectives on future working trends.

Mayor Dave Hodgson, Chair of EEH’s Strategic Transport Forum, said: “This study shows why consideration of digital connectivity is so important when planning for the region’s transport system. Trends around remote working have accelerated during the pandemic, and clearly this presents opportunities to think differently about our connectivity requirements. The work will enable us to make more informed choices on the relative merits of different types of infrastructure investment required to support sustainable growth and decarbonise the transport system.”