Nearly half of all Belgians – 43% – intend to avoid using public transport in the coming months because of anxieties regarding the coronavirus, according to a study by Deloitte Belgium.
Deloitte spoke to 3,000 Belgians, and asked them about their economic and health-related concerns affecting their mobility choices in the aftermath of lockdown. The response was that more than four in ten would avoid public transport for health reasons.
The trend, the company said, is in keeping with results found elsewhere: 46% in Germany and 54% in France, while Italy (68%) and Spain (64%) were even more reluctant to return to public transport.
Some respondents even suggested that shift away from public transport could last for years, and Deloitte warned that the result could be a move back to the private car, with the predictable consequences for pollution and traffic.
The study concludes that steps need to be taken on all sides. Public transport authorities need to work to win back the confidence of passengers, by using computers to measure the occupancy of vehicles in real time, and by providing contactless payment possibilities – something that is already under way on the network of the Brussels authority Stib.
On the other hand, businesses could contribute by introducing or extending the use of flexitime, which would at the same time spread out the traffic on the roads, as well as the occupancy of buses and trains. Crowded conditions on vehicles in the main issue causing concern to public transport users, despite mandatory mask-wearing in force since May.
However, the outlook is not all gloomy.
“Analyses from previous crises show that after the initial market disruption, more innovation often follows. After Covid-19, it is clear that companies need to keep innovating to adapt to changing market dynamics. Consumers would also be expected to benefit,” the study says.