The restrictions put in place to limit the spread of COVID-19 have had a widespread impact on people's lives, including changes to their transport behaviours. Global road transport activity was almost 50% below the 2019 average by the end of March 2020, and commercial flight activity almost 75% below that of 2019 by mid-April 2020. Changing patterns of work, shopping and business travel as a result of the pandemic have provided an opportunity and can be a catalyst for a shift towards more sustainable transport behaviours, avoiding a return to pre-crisis behaviours. However, that will require Governments to take decisive actions to limit transport energy use. While the current health crisis is unparalleled in the scale of impacts and government responses, examining past crises can be instructive in informing policy to incentivise sustainable behaviours as we go forward.
The transition to a carbon-neutral transport system brings new opportunities that are highlighted in the report. Creating a sustainable transport industry filled with well-paid, secure green jobs will simultaneously combat the climate emergency and inequality through investment. That investment will create meaningful modal change, support equal opportunities, reduce social exclusion and break down the socio-economic transport divide. Chronic underinvestment in public transport has created a highly car-dependent society in Northern Ireland. Significant infrastructure investment is vital for a clean, sustainable transport system that works for everyone.