The pandemic has shown what a “stationary” world looks like. The fall in demand for goods has led to an unprecedented reduction in the volume of transport services provided worldwide. Prospects are disappointing – by the end of 2020, global freight traffic will decline by 36%
Record losses in the transport sector
During the pandemic, 90% of flights were cancelled in the EU countries, the volume of passenger traffic by cars decreased by 60-90%, and by public transport by 50%. Today, the countries are in a transitional stage: in the transport sector, there is an adaptation to the updated operating conditions and a gradual recovery after the crisis.
Against the background of a decrease in the volume of sea freight, 11 of the 12 largest shipping lines were forced to return the rented vessels to their owners. The main reductions fell on the Danish company Maersk and the international company MSC (headquartered in Switzerland).
According to the Flightradar24 app, in April 2020, an average of 69.6 thousand flights per day was recorded worldwide, which is 62% less than in April 2019. The number of commercial flights decreased by 73%.
More than 71% of truck drivers continue to operate scheduled services, according to a survey conducted by the truck manufacturer MAN Truck & Bus. Out of these, 29% did not feel the impact of the pandemic on their daily work, 14% experience minor difficulties and only 9% of drivers complained about the serious impact of the situation related to the spread of the virus on their work processes.
In the face of a decrease in passenger traffic, railway companies are considering ways to activate cargo transportation. Free passenger traffic lines are used to increase the throughput of freight trains. Rail carriers are mentioned in the list of those who have been given new opportunities by the pandemic. Many enterprises have begun to change their vehicles to railways – this is the global trend.
The strict lockdown introduced in the UK in March 2020 has resulted in a 95% reduction in London tube rides. This is confirmed by data from a popular smartphone application that provides information about public transport. There has been a more than 90% drop in travel since the onset of the crisis in many major cities around the world. As of the end of August 2020, the occupancy of public transport has increased, but at the same time, it is 24% in New York, 24% in Mexico City, 80% in Moscow, 61% in Paris, 42% in Rome, and Seoul – 28%, in Tokyo 11%.
In April, the International Road Transport Union and the International Transport Workers’ Federation issued an open letter to governments of all countries asking for support to the transport industry as COVID-19 spreads: “Governments and international organisations must give the highest priority to maintaining the continuity and strength of supply chains.” And the response from the governments of all countries was not long in coming.
The U.S. Senate has voted to pass the Coronavirus Support, Aid and Economic Security Act, with a $ 2.3 trillion financial disbursement. A total of $ 58 billion was allocated to the aviation industry, including $ 25 billion in loans and loan guarantees for passenger airlines, and another $ 25 billion to pay benefits to industry workers until September 2020. Air cargo carriers received the US $ 8 billion. In addition, a number of companies critical to maintaining national security, including Boeing, have received $ 17 billion in loans.
The Chinese government has abolished road tolls (including tolls for bridges and tunnels) for all vehicles, checks and fees for vehicles carrying essential supplies and medical personnel, and provided financial support to small and medium-sized businesses affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. As well as companies involved in the transportation of essential goods.
The European Commission has presented new guidance on the implementation of green corridors for freight transport at EU borders. To ensure the continuity of supply chains in the European Union, Member States must immediately designate all relevant internal border crossing points (“green corridors”) along with the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). Green corridor crossings should be open to all freight vehicles regardless of the goods being transported. Crossing the border, including any checks and medical examinations, must take no more than 15 minutes.
The Australian government is no exception. The Australian Government committed an additional $241.9 million to continue the International Freight Assistance Mechanism (IFAM), helping keep international freight routes and flights operating.
Ways of overcoming the crisis and prospects
COVID-19 is changing established transportation habits. Some of them managed to keep their professional approach and quality. For example, if you will be needed reliable Perth transport you’ll have luck.
Many cities have begun to expand their cycle paths and have also provided new subsidies for low-emission vehicles.
The need to reduce human contact as a precautionary measure during the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the relevance of the use of unmanned aerial vehicles – drones. China became the first country to use drones in response to COVID-19. In February, the drone successfully transported test samples and medical supplies from a local hospital in Zhejiang province to a nearby medical centre.
Digital technologies for automated mobility and intelligent traffic management systems will help improve efficiency and make transport cleaner. Smart apps and mobility as a service will also play an important role. In aviation, the Single European Sky initiative aims to significantly reduce aviation emissions at zero cost to consumers and businesses by reducing flight times.
Experts from the IBM Corporation (USA) believe that automated highways will be created, where cars will be connected to the system to automatically change their direction and optimise traffic flows. Smart roads can optimise routes and reduce congestion.
The COVID-19 pandemic could be the starting point for global changes in the transport sector, as it fundamentally changes the established habits and order in the industry. Thus, the period of challenges and threats can be seen as a unique opportunity for governments to facilitate the transition to more sustainable modes of transport.