Innovating for a Pandemic Resilient Public Transport System

The COVID-19 pandemic has profoundly impacted the way we live and work in the UK. For the transport industry, a heavy fluctuation in passenger demand and the need for additional safety measures for staff and passengers have presented considerable challenges. As we start to consider our priorities for transport post-COVID-19, it is essential that we embed the learnings made during the present pandemic into our longer-term plans. To that end, the Department for Transport (DfT) has commissioned the Connected Places Catapult to carry out an exploratory study on what a future pandemic resilient public transport system might look like and what steps the transport industry and Government can take to get there.

This work will depend on the involvement of stakeholders across the transport ecosystem to help co-create the future vision and identify areas of innovative action. To register your interest in participating, please email us at TransportResilience@cp.catapult.org.uk indicating what strands of the research (see further information below) you would like to contribute towards.

The Project

The Innovating for a Pandemic Resilient Transport System project will run between November 2021 and March 2022. The overall purpose is to facilitate the transport industry’s innovative efforts to create a more pandemic resilient public transport system. More specifically, the project aims to create a shared, clear, and specific understanding of how the DfT and industry can best work together to innovate for a public transport system with improved resilience to pandemic-caused fluctuation in supply and demand.

Our objectives are to:    

  • Co-create with industry a market-focused vision of what a 2030 pandemic resilient public transport system might look like
  • Identify 5-10 transport innovation needs and define a set of up to three areas where demonstration might spark further innovation
  • Develop a testbed concept, highlighting innovations that industry can test within it

In scope are:

  • The public transport system, with particular consideration to critical services for key workers and lifeline services
  • Resilience to fluctuation in demand and supply, especially as it relates to safety for passengers and the workforce
  • Market preparation and response, considering improvement areas that the industry itself can address and associated barriers to innovation 
  • (Primarily) Transmission routes of airborne, viral diseases with pandemic potential
Outcomes and Impact

The immediate outcomes of the project will be:

  • A shared vision of a future pandemic resilient public transport network
  • Industry awareness of innovation areas that need to be invested in to ensure the resilience of the future transport network
  • An agreement between industry and the Government on how to move towards a shared vision for future transport resilience
  • A clear understanding of the next steps required for rolling out a testbed in which industry can test innovations for greater pandemic resilience

Intermediate outcomes (6 months to 2 years) include:

  • Signposting strategic focus on identified areas of innovation
  • Further collaborative working agreements between industry and Government
  • Deployment of a testbed to improve innovation readiness

Expected impacts (2+ years) are:

  • Commercial availability of innovations to be deployed on the transport network
  • Ability to quickly roll out instruments to respond to a new pandemic
How to get involved

If you are a stakeholder in the transport ecosystem, we welcome your participation in one or several of our three strands of exploratory investigation:

1. Future vision

The Future Vision will be developed during two online workshops in January 2022.

Workshop 1 (18th January, 14:00 – 16:00) will explore how resilient the UK’s transport system has been and is to pandemics and start defining a shared vision for what a successful pandemic resilient transport system looks like for the UK.

Workshop 2 (25th January, 14:00 – 16:00) will use scenarios to expose the uncertainties the UK faces in achieving the shared vision and start identifying steps that the UK could take to realise the shared vision.

For the Future Vision work, we would especially welcome the participation of:

  • Public transport operators/providers
  • Transport bodies
  • Transport infrastructure providers
  • Representatives of key workers
  • Representatives of public transport passengers
  • Representatives of the public transport workforce
  • ‘Future thinkers’/researchers from academia, industry, Government and NGOs.   
2. Innovation focus areas

Drawing on the future vision, we will explore what areas of innovation that industry should focus their efforts on. This work will be carried out in February 2022, and we will be using focus groups and online questionnaires to capture input.

Here, we especially welcome the participation of ecosystem stakeholders working in innovation, strategy, futures or solution-oriented roles.    

3. Working better together

This strand will draw on interviews and focus groups to explore how the transport industry and Government can best work together to accelerate innovation for improved pandemic resilience. We are particularly interested in speaking to stakeholders with a good understanding of barriers to innovation within their specific area of the transport system.

To register your interest in participating, please email us at TransportResilience@cp.catapult.org.uk indicating what strands of the research you would like to contribute towards.