China has more private cars on the road post lockdown – Will the UK follow?

May 6, 2020

The team at Infinium Logistics Solutions has been following the transport trends from around the globe after countries start to ease the restrictions of the Coronavirus lockdown.

In the UK, the government is looking at a phased lockdown exit plan, with talk of Brits returning to work from May 26th with Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary stating, “It won’t be business as usual after lockdown.”

Already companies have spoken out about possible changes to working conditions including Jes Staley, the chief executive of Barclays, who said the bank would look at a more de-centralised approach to staff working, including the prospect of local branches becoming satellite offices for more employees. Staley told The Guardian “I think the notion of putting 7,000 people in a building may be a thing of the past, and we will find ways to operate with more distancing over a much longer period of time.”

Change is most probable for many people including an increase in working from home, change in behaviours for commuting to work, the number of times people go shopping and the use in public transport. 

Prior to lockdown the UK had over 32 million people workers, which includes the employed and self-employed. What was the method of transport used by these people for travelling to and from work? The options would have been by car, train, bus, underground, two wheels, walking, car sharing, or taxi. 

A question people should ask themselves is how are they going to travel in the future? Would you think twice about using public transport, will you be driving, cycling more or stay working from home?

In China there has been some interesting facts emerge following their lifting of lockdown. In Wuhan there has been a huge increase in the use of private cars because they see personal vehicles as safer than public transport. 

According to a survey conducted by the ‘Institute for Transportation and Development Policy’ in early March in the megacity of Guangzhou, only 34% of previous metro and bus commuters were using public transit systems, while 40% had shifted to private cars, taxis and ride-hailing, and the rest to walking and biking. Will this be the same in the UK?

Institute for Transportation and Development Policy
China more parking

In Wuhan, it has also been reported that demand in new car sales has taken some car dealers by surprise, with daily sales now running at levels seen before the economic freeze. Many families are purchasing second cars rather than commuting on public transport. To get the auto industry moving again, local governments are stepping in. 

At least a dozen cities or provinces have encouraged people to buy cars, mainly by offering cash subsidies of as much as $1,400 per vehicle. This initiative has a knock-on effect to get the whole supply chain moving again, for car and part manufacturers.

The AA has just conducted a survey which polled more than 20,000 people in the UK about how much they expect to travel after lockdown restrictions are lifted. While more than a fifth of all respondents said they will be driving less, the likelihood of spending fewer hours in a car increased for the older generation, with a quarter of over 65s saying they won’t be hitting the road s as much as they used to. Edmund King OBE, AA president, said: “Potentially there could be major changes to the way we travel post-lockdown. Analysis suggests that one fifth might use public transport less in cities post-lockdown. Outside of London which has parking and congestion charging restrictions, we could see an increase in car use in other cities where people shun public transport for fear of the virus.”

Transport consultants SYSTRA also found in their poll that In London, commuters using buses and tubes could fall by as much as 40% from pre-lockdown levels and rail use could drop by 27%. How will they travel now?

Infinium Logistics Solutions

Our Views

We believe that in the short term, until public confidence returns, people will be more anxious about driving and agree that because of social distancing, public transport and car sharing will reduce. The new normal will probably see an increase in people working from home too. 

However, we also believe that more people will travel in private cars, where it is considered one of the safest options for commuting to work and travelling for personal uses such as shopping, hobbies and leisure. 

An increase in car travel will also see an increase in the supply chain and touch points, including sales, service, repair, parking, vehicle defects, accidents and insurance claims.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders announced in April that a count up of all vehicles tallied there were more than 35million cars and 5million commercial vehicles owned in Britain during 2019 – an increase of 1 per cent and more than there has ever before been on the road at the same time. It will be interesting to see the vehicle count in a year’s time.

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