Climate change still high on the agenda
2 August 2021

Climate change still high on the agenda

But Covid-19 risks long-term reduction in green travel choices

23% say they will use public transport less about a year from now if no restrictions are in place, with 72% of those predicting a switch to car

The Covid-19 pandemic has not caused climate change to drop off the public agenda, with 73% believing it is a high priority that needs addressing, and nearly a third (30%) more worried about climate change now than before the pandemic. However, nearly three-quarters (72%) of those predicting a decline in their public transport use will replace their public transport journeys with car trips. If this happened, 17% of public transport journeys would be replaced by car journeys. Additionally, 10% have bought, or are planning on buying, a car primarily due to Covid-19. These results are from a representative survey of 1,500 adult UK residents undertaken by transport and research consultancy SYSTRA Ltd, between 20th to 25th July 2021.

  • Whilst 23% predict a reduction in their public transport use, this demonstrates a bounce-back from June 2020, when 39% predicted a longer-term reduction in public transport use. Positively, over a third (35%) intend to replace their public transport journeys with walking.
  • Whilst concern over catching coronavirus will influence 30% when considering using public transport about a year from now, and assuming no Covid restrictions are in place, cost of fares (39%) and concerns over crowding (35%) are predicted to play more significant roles.
  • A reduction in total journeys made overall is also likely to be seen, particularly amongst commuters, with a 19% decrease in commuting days over the average month, and double the time spent working from home predicted to be the case about a year from now, compared with pre-Covid restrictions. Commuting patterns may also change, with one in five commuters (24%) willing to commute further as they can do it less frequently, and one in five (19%) having moved or considering a house move due to their reduced commute frequency.
  • Changes in travel patterns are also anticipated more widely than the commute, with over a third (36%) believing they will make fewer trips into their local town/city centre compared to before Covid-19 restrictions. Whilst grocery shopping appears more likely to remain in person, other types of shopping are predicted to switch to online compared to before Covid-19 restrictions (40% agree).

Duncan Irons

Sector Director for Climate Emergency

“Whilst it’s welcome to see growing confidence in using public transport compared to earlier in the pandemic, many warning signs remain – changes to travel patterns have implications not only for future passenger numbers and how we plan our transport networks, but also underline the challenges facing our high streets; and in a year when the UK will host COP26 in Glasgow, the continued trend towards greater use of cars emphasises the need for policy choices which promote sustainable travel options if we are to deliver on our climate change targets.”

Evelyn Robertson

SYSTRA’s Research Lead

“Covid-19 will have far-reaching impacts on the way we live our lives in the future. These findings highlight the importance of engagement to recognise the influences on attitudes and behaviour – only then can we understand how to best inspire green, convenient and cost-efficient transport choices.”

Top of the page
SYSTRA Ltd Registered office: 3rd Floor, 1 Carey Lane, London, England EC2V 8AE. Registered Number 3383212