There is little doubt that the transport industry’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic will be propelled by new and improved passenger services such as Wi-Fi.
A significant percentage of the population has transitioned to hybrid home and office working; employers are becoming ever more open to employees working from any location, and employees are keener than ever to take advantage of their commute to carry out work-related tasks and stay productive. For business commuters, the increased availability and reliability of Wi-Fi on trains and buses can support the flexibility in work hours and locations that the “work from home” transition has introduced, allowing them to send emails, make conference calls, and research information for work-related tasks. If a passenger’s commute can contribute towards their working day, and not disrupt it, then public transport will be the obvious and most effective modal choice for those journeys, while also easing the congestion of traditional peak travel hours.
For leisure travelers, passenger Wi-Fi offers an immersive experience; when passengers are engaged, the perceived journey time is reduced, and this has a positive impact on propensity to travel. Passengers can communicate with friends and family via social media, shop online, catch up with the latest news, or even learn a new language. Many travelers also use their commute to carry out digital chores such as paying bills, renewing insurance policies, and searching for new properties or jobs.
This consideration is especially important if operators are to be more successful in attracting ‘Generation Z’ – digital natives born since the mid-1990s – to travel by public transport, rather than using the next modes of personal transport (e.g. ride-hailing services and autonomous vehicles). Less likely to drive cars, and more acutely aware of issues around the climate emergency, this demographic group could be key in helping drive the return to public transport post-pandemic. However, Generation Z are also the most discerning group of consumers to cater for, raised in a world of near-instant delivery of services and with very high expectations of reliability and quality.
Railway-news magazine Issue 4 Data & Monitoring edition, November 2022: Icomera - How Would You Navigate the World If You Couldn't See?
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