Horizons Newsletter – week 30 // 2020

Horizons is a bi-monthly Dasym Research initiative to show you how the Dasym themes have been in the news. We publish the Horizons on our website and as an email newsletter. If you wish to receive the email, please contact Investor Relations.
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An inconvenient commute
Mobility around public transport stations is increasing again, but is stabilizing far below pre-Covid-19 levels. The main reason is that people perceive these locations as ‘risky’ and ‘inconvenient’. In London, for instance, 70% of the city’s population feels uncomfortable taking the bus or tube. Meanwhile, research from the Dutch Knowledge Institute for Mobility Policy shows that 20% of people who chose public transport before the pandemic intend to use a different means of transport in the future: 63% of them will choose the (shared) car, 18% see their bicycle as a suitable alternative. In the Netherlands, e-bikes sales have grown rapidly during the pandemic and other countries are also seeing a rise in the popularity of cycling. To spur the transition towards alternative and social distancing-proof modes of transport, cities are improving their cycling infrastructure, sometimes by drastically taking away street space from cars. As soon as autumn (and with it the flu season) kicks in, it will be interesting to see whether the resistance against taking the tube outweighs the inconvenience of cycling in bad weather conditions.

Driving in a post-corona world
With people working at home during the pandemic, traffic jams have almost disappeared. Looking ahead, the question is how the crisis will affect car ownership and use in the long term. To answer this question, it is key to distinguish between the immediate effects of the crisis and its longer-lasting impact. That is, in the midst of this crisis, quite a lot of people actually are commuting by car to avoid the perils of public transport. Yet, most of them are likely to return to public transport modes as soon as the pandemic is over. The working-from-home trend is bound to last much longer, as people intend to work from home at least 1 or 2 days a week, even when the pandemic is over. Although this will not affect car ownership immediately (we do not buy cars for commuting only), it will have a significant impact on everyday car use. Moreover, it will open doors for car sharing services that fit well with the flexibility of a post-9-to-5 office regime.

Flight shame and train gain
Recently, Austrian Airlines announced the replacement of flights from Vienna to Salzburg with a direct train connection. The measure is part of an agreement with the government in exchange for financial state aid, but reflects a trend that had already started before the corona outbreak. In 2018, the concept of flight shame (the unease about flying experienced by environmentally conscious travelers) started gathering pace in Europe. According to a 2020 UBS study, both business and leisure travelers are willing to switch from air to high-speed rail and accept longer travel times. Research shows that flights of up to 800 km are particularly suitable to be replaced with train connections. Even without the construction of new infrastructure, Europe can make progress in the transition from plane to train: by improving information provision and bookability of (international) train tickets, and better coordinating traffic control and capacity management between countries. To remove these bottlenecks, European rail providers will need to look beyond domestic needs and cooperate more. In addition, governments should stop subsidizing the aviation industry and make train traveling cost competitive.