Changes down the line: flattening the curve of public transport use

Document type
Davenport, Alex; Levell, Peter
Institute for Fiscal Studies
Date of publication
15 May 2020
IFS Briefing Note; BN287
Social Policy, Employment
Social welfare
Material type

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Social distancing measures are likely to be with us for some time. Even as lockdown eases, and the economy reopens, there will be changes to both the way we work and the ways we get to work.

This is particularly true for those who commute using public transport; if people using public transport must remain 2 metres apart, there will be far less capacity than in normal times. For example, rail companies have suggested that capacity on trains may be reduced by 70–90% if social distancing is enforced, and Transport for London has said that, even if all services are operating, capacity on London’s bus and tube network will only be 13–15% of what it is normally.

This briefing looks at normal (pre-lockdown) commuting patterns, what they tell us about who would be affected by continued social distancing on public transport, and what they tell us about how policy can ease public transport congestion in a world of continued social distancing.


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