Survey underlines need for support for public transport as West Yorkshire emerges from COVID-19 pandemic

New research for the Combined Authority shows how the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is influencing the travel choices people in West Yorkshire are making.

New research for the West Yorkshire Combined Authority shows how the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is influencing the travel choices people in West Yorkshire are making.  

The Combined Authority carried out the research to understand how the pandemic has changed working and travel patterns and to start to assess the longer-term trends that will influence planning on the transport network. 

The survey saw 700 residents comprising a representative sample of West Yorkshire’s communities interviewed over the telephone. The process will be repeated in the coming weeks to track how the results change as lockdown restrictions are lifted. 

Findings from the initial survey included: 

  • 39%of respondents said they are currently walking and running more than before lockdown and 35% of respondents said they are currently cycling more than before lockdown 
  • 27%of regular public transport users said they will travel by car more in the coming weeks than before lockdown and 29% reported being very concerned about using public transport 
  • 64%said that, in the long term, they are likely to work from home more often than before lockdown 

Cllr Kim Groves, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee, said: 

“There are positive signs in this survey that people have been cycling and walking more during lockdown and in the coming weeks and months we will be encouraging them to do so for more work journeys as well as for leisure.  

“People should have confidence that public transport is safe but it is clear that we need Government support to encourage people back onto rail and bus if we are to avoid a surge in car use with congestion and lower air quality. 

“We are spending over £6 million a month to maximise capacity on the bus network while maintaining social-distancing but we need the Government to work with us on long-term funding to provide the increased capacity and reliability that will attract people back.” 

Cllr Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council and West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Lead, said: 

“The Combined Authority and partners are investing in measures to make more road space available for cycling and walking and this survey shows that there is a real opportunity to help people make positive changes in the way they travel. 

“However, the survey also underlines our warnings to the Government that transport authorities need long-term funding to meet the challenges we now face to avoid forcing people into their cars leading to congestion and poorer air quality, 

“A reliable public transport network that allows for social-distancing while offering the capacity and reliability are communities need will be an essential part of West Yorkshire’s economic recovery from the pandemic.” 

Survey took place between 9 and 14 June 2020. It’s the first of four surveys to take place over the coming weeks so that we can capture how the results changes as lockdown restrictions are lifted.