Posted: 19 Nov. 2020 3 min. read

State of the State transport

A first read of the 2020-21 edition of Deloitte’s State of the State report confirms much of what I expected after this year of turmoil. People are concerned about the economy, about job opportunities post-pandemic in particular, and about the future of our young people. They are also acutely aware of the need to “pay” for fiscal support implemented by the government to see the UK economy through COVID-19, which will be addressed over the coming months and years.

Evidence to support these findings is borne out by our survey of more than 5,000 individuals across the UK, and our research interviews with public sector and business leaders suggest that navigating these challenges will be far from easy.

Yet there are also glimpses of optimism for the future and how the pandemic can create opportunities for a change in direction. A consistent underlying theme was the desire for a “green” and “sustainable” recovery, and for continued investment to drive the economy forward. Respondents to our survey were unclear how this investment should be prioritised but felt a larger sense that other areas are “better off” when it comes to jobs and opportunities.

To me, this is what “levelling up” must address. Described by one Local Government interviewee as “a political imperative in need of a programme”, it should be about connections and decisions at the regional and local level, the better to deal with the specific needs. These businesses and communities must be able to thrive wherever they are based because there are good jobs, a skilled workforce and emerging talent.

Several areas of investment can support delivery of such significant change. One area singled out in our survey is the quality of local transport infrastructure. Survey results indicate that major national schemes – i.e. projects that connect major cities – that Whitehall typically sees as essential to the “levelling up” of the UK are of lesser concern than prioritisation of local transport links. Our recent update of the Deloitte City Mobility Index supports these findings and shows how better quality public transport within our towns and cities can help deliver a green recovery. Ultimately, people prioritise what is on their doorstep.

How communities connect internally and to their immediate neighbours is becoming more and more important. People are keeping much closer to home, travelling less and reconsidering future work patterns, due largely to the pandemic and the ensuing economic shutdown. Indeed 42 % of our respondents anticipate increased levels of local community spirit once things settle in post-pandemic UK.

The COVID-19 response has meant a significant drop in public transport use due to the need for social distancing, but this is temporary. The bounce-back will lead to increased demand for high functioning, reliable, clean, and sustainable services that support our communities to travel locally at all times of day.

This moment provides a valuable opportunity to rethink our travel patterns. Public sector planners can use that increased sense of community to reconnect people with their local towns and high streets. Moreover, new users of local transport want high levels of quality and performance to keep them from choosing their car.

Given the increased sense of community arising from the pandemic, the anticipated long-term change in work and travel patterns and the strengthening case for a green and sustainable economic recovery, there is a clear need to revitalise and modernise local transport as a core element of our economic recovery. This should reflect community needs and align with the more recognisable national transport investment projects to deliver fully integrated plans that create UK-wide growth.

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Zoe Davidson

Zoe Davidson

Director

Zoe Davidson is a financial and commercial advisor with more than twenty years of experience, specialising in major infrastructure-led development and real estate projects in the UK. Zoe advises both public and private sector clients across key topics such as transport-led development, housing delivery and economic growth, often focussed on securing and structuring funding and investment for complex schemes. Zoe began her career in project finance banking and investment, and has spent time in Sydney advising government on infrastructure and development projects, bringing a wealth of expertise from across the global development industry. Zoe is based in our regional business, working from Manchester office, but has a national client base across the UK.