As we come to terms with the impact COVID-19 has had on our lives, thoughts are starting to wander towards the future and how we #rebuild a post-COVID world. Sitting in isolation, hunched over laptops to get our work done, the thought of squeezing into crammed tube carriages not only feels like a distant memory, but might seem to be a thing of the past altogether.
How can life go back to that? People surely won’t commute en masse anymore? Shouldn’t we scrap expensive infrastructure projects and rail improvements that won’t be needed?
As my colleague Simon Russian discussed in his article on the impact of travel for regeneration, there is no doubt consumer behaviours will change, and whilst there is likely to be permanent changes (many for the better), things will inevitably (at some point) return to ‘normal’. We’re itching to see friends and family, go on holiday, and (dare I say it) get back to the office.
When we are allowed to do these things, pressures on infrastructure will return. There will be traffic jams, trains will be busy, and infrastructure repairs and improvements will still be required. Yes, we might queue for the train two metres apart, rather than in a scrum formation, but mass travel will still be required for our economy and for our lives to function. If isolation measures are imposed, even more trains will be needed to adjust for the reduced numbers of people allowed in carriages.
Infrastructure projects form a key part of economic recovery and now more than ever they will be required to kick-start the economy to provide safe transportation. Rather than scrapping planned projects, we should embrace this quieter period as a chance to press on with such works. This is an opportune time to carry out road and railway projects, install electric charging points, improve internet coverage and 5G, and invest in the sustainable technologies that are required for twenty-first century life.
Putting on the brakes will inevitably slow down recovery; so to the men and women making key decisions we say, ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’!
Decisions taken in the short term need to be robust across a range of possible futures.