Public Transport: Coronavirus

Department for Transport written question – answered at on 22 July 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Randerson Baroness Randerson Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Transport)

To ask Her Majesty's Government how much they have spent on the COVID-19 communications campaign advising people to avoid using public transport; and what (1) plans they have for, and (2) associated spending they have allocated to, a communications campaign to encourage people to resume using public transport.

Photo of Baroness Vere of Norbiton Baroness Vere of Norbiton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

The Department for Transport launched a campaign in May, with the objective of providing clear communications to avoid public transport unless the journey is essential and no other option (i.e. walking, cycling or driving) is available. The Department worked with operators across the transport network who amplified the message. The cost of the May and June activity, which had a primary message advising people to avoid to public transport, was £245k. This activity alone had reached more than 15 million people by 3 July 2020.

At the start of the campaign, the 2m social distancing rule meant public transport was running at 10% of capacity. To enable key workers to access the network safely, the department encouraged those who could avoid travel altogether, or use an alternative mode, to do so. Overcrowding has remained a risk as lockdown restrictions have been lifted and sectors have reopened, so managing demand to protect those who cannot work from home or travel in another way has remained a priority. The campaign to date has helped to prevent such overcrowding by providing clear and consistent advice to the public.

However, ‘avoid travel’ was just one message in a suite communicated to the public, and shared with our partners to disseminate. The campaign has also informed passengers about the steps they can take to protect themselves and others should they need to use the network. Materials and messages have been updated and added regularly to reflect the evolving policy and guidance positions, including, for example, the move to mandatory use of face coverings.

The campaign is therefore not clearly split between advising people to avoid public transport and encouraging them to resume using it. It has, and will continue to, communicate a range of messages to different audiences and will shift over time to reflect the latest advice to the public. Our priority must be the safety of passengers, but when we are able to welcome more people back to the network, we will use the same channels and mechanisms utilised to date. This is an ongoing issue and further spending on communications will be a part of that.

Transport was also a key element of the Stay Alert campaign run by Cabinet Office, with an estimated £2.35 million invested up to 12 July 2020, accounting for 19% of Stay Alert investment. Cabinet Office have worked closely with stakeholders such as TfL who have provided free access to poster sites and Network Rail who have provided 30,000 48 sheet and 96 sheet advertising slots per week.

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