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Commuters are willing to pay more for travel costs to protect the environment post-pandemic, according to PwC research

  • Half of people are willing to pay more for travel costs to help protect the environment and reduce the UK’s carbon footprint.
  • Lower earners and the self-employed are more supportive of paying more to benefit the environment than those on higher salaries and in employment throughout the pandemic.
  • Annual and monthly travel passes will be the least popular ticket types, with commuters opting for contactless and off-peak reduced price tickets instead.
  • Seven in ten people plan to travel in the same way as before the pandemic, compared to five in ten at the start of the pandemic. 

Half of people (50%) are willing to pay more in travel costs to maintain the environmental improvements, such as reduced pollution, seen during the pandemic, according to PwC’s latest transport research which surveyed 2,000 people across the UK.

Commuters on lower salaries are more willing to pay higher transport costs to support the introduction of environmental measures. People earning £30k and under were most likely (54%) to support paying more compared to those earning £60-90k (45%).  The research also found that self-employed people who have had to stop working due to COVID-19 were more likely to be willing to pay more (63%) compared to those employed and still working through the pandemic (43%).

As many workers adopt new flexible working patterns, more than half of respondents (57%) say they are most likely to use contactless payments followed by daily off-peak reduced priced tickets (35%). People are least likely to buy traditional ticket types like monthly (20%) and annual (18%) passes.

More people are confident than last year that COVID-19 will not have a long-lasting effect on how they travel on public transport, with seven in ten (70%) saying that they will travel in the same way as they did before the pandemic. This is an increase from five in ten (55%) at the start of the pandemic in 2020.

Increased cleaning and availability of hand sanitiser are the top measures commuters want post-pandemic, with over half of people (59% and 58% respectively) saying these are important once restrictions are lifted. These measures came ahead of enforced mask wearing (46%), travelling at less busy times (38%) and walking rather than using public transport (36%).

Grant Klein, PwC’s transport leader, said:

“Our research shows a clear public mandate to sustain the positive environmental effects we have seen during the pandemic even at a financial cost to them. A key challenge for national and local government is how to accelerate environmental schemes like ultra low emission zones across the UK. They will also need to address changes in the modes of travel passengers have available to them, with a growth in cycling and the introduction of new modes such as e-scooters.

“While people expect a significant shift back to normality after the pandemic, travel patterns and plans for greater flexibility have already changed because of Covid. Contactless payments and flexible part-time tickets will become more relevant to travellers as a hybrid of remote and on-site working becomes the norm.”

Zlatina Loudjeva, PwC’s Government Net Zero lead, said:

“This is an opportune moment for new products to support this behaviour shift and accelerate progress to Net Zero targets. For example, imagine having green Oyster passes that give you options to track and manage your carbon footprint with data that tells you when it’s most efficient to travel. The demand is there, we now need to equip commuters with clear options, in a similar way we have organic and local shopping options, we need transport products and data that helps us make informed choices.”

Hybrid working opportunities

As the impact of COVID-19 reduces, younger people are more likely to seek roles where they can work remotely at least one day a week; true for six in ten (59%) people aged 18-34 compared with four in ten (41%) aged over 55. Over half (54%) of people want to work from home at least one day a week after the pandemic.

Stephanie Bloor, director in PwC’s hybrid workforce strategy and culture team, said:

“A significant increase in flexibility won’t work for every organisation or job role but it’s a huge opportunity for some and we’re seeing a real range of responses, both across and within industries. Many employers are rethinking the technology, skills, and spaces they need, while juggling the sometimes conflicting demands of employees, clients and customers, and the bottom line. 

“Some interesting data is emerging - for example, on the role of employee personality type in successful remote working and the level of intervention employees will invite to feel safe. These insights combined with technology that’s deployed over the next six months and beyond will bring further possibilities for evolving how, when, and where we work.”

Following extensive consultation with employees, PwC announced changes to its 22,000 people   in March to allow for  greater flexibility for post-pandemic working.  Called the ‘Deal’, the announcement reflects the firm’s commitment to supporting its people and responding to changing working patterns accelerated by Covid. The changes will help embed a hybrid working model and align with PwC’s Net Zero commitment.

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