Monday 12 July 2021 3:20 pm

More staff yearn for their pre-pandemic commutes as return to looms

As 19 July approaches and employees prepare to return to the office, commutes look set to make a comeback too, as seven in ten people plan to travel in the same way as before the pandemic, compared to just five in ten at the start of the pandemic, according to research by PwC.

More people are confident than last year that Covid-19 will not have a long-lasting effect on how they travel on public transport, but research by the accounting giant showed that there are some changes in how people plan their travel to and from the office, and why.

Half of those who took part in PwC’s survey, said they were willing to pay more in travel costs in order to maintain the environmental improvements, such as reduced pollution, seen during the pandemic.

Commuters will prefer to use contactless payments, and buy off-peak reduced price tickets over annual and monthly travel passes which, according to PwC, will be the least popular ticket types – with less than one in five planning to buy an annual pass.

This does not bode well for the flexible season tickets which were introduced by National Rail in recent weeks.

The new flexible season tickets allow passengers to travel for eight days in any month-long period. The tickets were introduced as part of the government’s much-vaunted revamp of the UK rail network and followed a year in which passenger numbers tumbled to historically low levels as a result of the pandemic.

But even as many workers adopt new flexible working patterns, which the flexible season tickets were designed to cater for, PwC’s transport research, which surveyed 2,000 people across the UK, showed that other priorities are occupying workers’ minds.

Increased cleaning and the ample availability of hand sanitiser are some of the top measures commuters want post-pandemic, with over half of the survey respondents citing these are important factors to them after restrictions are lifted.

“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,” said Grant Klein, PwC transport leader, in an official statement on the company website.