2021: Happy New Lockdown and the Future of Transport

As we move into 2021 and yet another lockdown, the future of mass transportation has never looked so uncertain; not just in terms of long-term viability, but in terms of the vast uncertainty of what the future of mass transportation may look like. Because of this, transport operators are continuing to focus their activity on what they need to do to adapt their operating models to ensure they are future-fit and in a shape to take advantage of the opportunities that will inevitably present themselves in an ever-changing landscape.

Since the first lockdown in March 2020, the transport sector as a whole has been forced to significantly overhaul its operations in order to adapt and financially survive plummeting passenger numbers, whilst at the same time meeting their responsibilities to public health. Even during the summer months, when some return to ‘normality’ was permitted, passenger numbers remained depressed, with confidence in the safety of public transport depressingly low.

Many of our clients have come to realise that what 2020 showed them was that in most cases, the standard funding models for transport companies are broken, based on an over reliance on ticket revenues to cover operating costs. With the implications of Covid’s impact on the way we work and socialise yet to be understood, it is nonetheless likely that we have witnessed a significant shift and the impact on operators’ finances are in all likelihood here to stay. 12 months ago much of the way we work, socialise and engage with others would have been unthinkable – as would the fact that the market value of Zoom, the video conferencing software is now the same as that of the top 15 airlines in the world!

As we come back from our Christmas breaks to the most restrictive lockdown yet, the continued uncertainty around the future of how we work and travel is having a big impact on plans and future investment at both a Government and company level. Because of this we continue to see our transport clients focus on four big areas:

  • Better understanding the capabilities within their businesses through structured leadership assessment programmes;
  • Operations in a pandemic;
  • Funding in the long and short term, which continues to be impacted by Government decisions, and the fluid and unpredictable nature of the pandemic because of the impact these have on passengers numbers, which fluctuated significantly throughout 2020 and will continue to do so in 2021;
  • Post COVID-19 investment – what areas should be invested in and when?

When talking to our clients it’s clear that they feel strongly that they have a duty to support the recovery of the economy by trying to mitigate the impact of Covid on operations in order to continue to run full services, which is something the transport sector as a whole did exceptionally well during 2020. While likely to be an integral part of the recovery, it is also placing additional strain on operators at a time when it is heavily felt.

The sector will continue to be impacted by the fact that confidence in safety on public transport is still low. This will be helped to a certain extent by studies like the one undertaken by Imperial College London on the London Underground and buses late last year which saw researchers randomly test ‘touch points’ and showed absolutely zero traces of Covid at all, suggesting the combination of wearing masks, public caution and the cleaning regime maintained by operators was successful at preventing the virus from spreading. However, public confidence is a cautious thing, and it seems likely that further efforts will be needed, even as the vaccine is rolled out, to coax passengers back on mass transportation.

However, no matter how effective the vaccine is at stopping the spread, the effects of Covid on how we live, and how we work are likely to represent a real sea-change not easily reversed by those looking to get things back to ‘normal’. Therefore, despite the fantastic news about the vaccine, the need to evolve transport operating models will remain at the top of most transport companies’ agendas.

At Norman Broadbent, we are continuing to partner with our clients across the sector find solutions to these challenges in numerous ways, including:

  • Future proof the business – by helping them to better understand the capability of their teams through the creation of success profiles (what good looks like), the assessment of individuals against these and the creation of individual development plans to help raise the calibre of individuals, teams and the business as a whole.
  • Gaps in capability – we are supporting our clients to understand the talent landscape through candidate intelligence projects to give them the evidence they need to make informed people decisions.
  • Change and transformation – providing our clients with experienced Interim Managers and independent consultants to help with the creation and delivery of change strategies.
  • Strategy development – through the completion of business intelligence projects we are helping our clients to better understand how other companies and sectors became market leading in specific areas, such as digital transformation from a customer experience. They are then using this information to support in the creation of their business strategies.

If you would like to confidentially discuss how Norman Broadbent Group could help you overcome your business or people challenges, please contact Nick Behan on +44 (0) 0207 484 0106 or via nick.behan@normanbroadbent.com