Transport for London has warned that Coronovirus could reduce its passenger income by up to £500m.
A growing number of firms and individuals have changed their travel behaviour, with greater numbers of people working from home, and this has led to a significant reduction in passenger numbers.
In the week commencing 9 March, passenger volumes were down by around 19 per cent on the Tube and 10 per cent on buses compared to the same week the previous year.
The key drivers of the reduction appear to be a significant reduction in visitors to London, firms asking staff to work from home and continued underlying softness of demand (especially off-peak).
While acknowledging that it is difficult to predict the duration or the severity of the COVID-19 virus, TfL’s current forecast, based on government scenarios, is that passenger income could fall by up to £500m.
The Mayor and TfL will be looking to the Government “to provide appropriate financial support”.
Bus and coach industry seeks help
The bus and coach industry is asking the government for extra flexibility and guarantees of public revenue sources to offset the financial impact of Coronovirus.
The Confederation of Passenger Transport, the trade association for bus and coach operators across the UK, welcomed measures announced last week by Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to support small businesses.
The impact for bus and coach operators could be severe. Downsizing and laying off staff in response to reduced demand was not an easy option, since it would have a substantial cash downside for operators.
Commenting on the threat posed by Coronovirus, CPT Chief Executive Graham Vidler said: “If people choose or are required to travel less the industry stands to be significantly affected and will require dedicated support from the Government.
“This includes greater flexibility to temporarily alter routes and commitments that existing funding for concessionary travel and contracted services such as home to school transport will be maintained even where passengers numbers fall or services are not required.
He added: “Longer term further measures such as the introduction of tax credits to help companies across the sector experiencing significant loss of revenue may also be required.”
Rail services could be withdrawn
Some rail services could be withdrawn due to the Coronavirus outbreak after the number train passengers fell by a fifth over the past week, according to the Transport Secretary.
Grant Shapps plans to meet with train operating companies this week to discuss how they manage the “big drop off” in users, suggesting they could be allowed to run fewer trains.
“The railways have definitely seen a big drop off … last week by about 18-20 per cent in the number of passengers,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.
Asked if the operators could be freed from some of the obligations in their franchise agreements, Shapps suggested that timetables could be amended to allow for reduced services.
“It’s quite clear it’s an exceptional international moment in time, an international crisis, and we need to be flexible … I’ll be driven by, amongst other things, the demand. There’s no more point in running ghost trains any more than there is running ghost planes.”
Shapp added: “We’re working with them all to see what it is we need to sustain them. Obviously people still need to be able to travel, to an extent. Some of [the planning] is about how many trains are put on at any one time.”
About the Author
This post was written by Robert Jack. Robert is Managing Editor and Publisher of Passenger Transport. He has worked as a journalist, editor and publisher in the passenger transport sector for 18 years. He has played a key role in many transport-related conferences and events.