Now that covid is hardly visible in society, this is not the case for public transport: working from home has become a serious option and many commuters no longer take the train. What are the consequences for public transport? In an article of the AD, Dennis Huisman, Professor of Public Transport Optimisation at Erasmus School of Economics, answers this question.
Public transport is known to be quite vulnerable: it barely makes a profit and is mostly supported or kept going by the government. Now that many people no longer use public transport, a substantial part of the income of these companies is lost and the companies become loss-making. The RET (Rotterdam Electric Tram), for example, has indicated that it may reduce the transport it offers by as much as 30%. According to professor Huisman, it is the working people who mostly do not use public transport anymore, which is then mainly reflected in the rush hour. 'That is probably a permanent effect. That working at home remains one or two days a week'.
So the income is lagging behind. Huisman sketches a clear picture of the possibilities: 'If you want to keep offering the same product, the costs are just as high. And because most public transport companies barely make a profit, that turns into a loss. This is not feasible in the long term. There are therefore two options: either the government increases its subsidy or they cut back on the public transport services on offer.' Subsidy is the best option in this case, he says, since the alternative is a vicious circle in which public transport is scaled down and fewer people will then use public transport because the quality declines. There is a good chance that passenger numbers will rise again significantly in the future.