Plans for major road and railway projects are being reviewed because of changes in travel patterns as a result of the Covid pandemic, according to new BBC research.
The BBC said it has learnt that civil servants are studying transport expansion plans to see which ones are still viable. This is alongside its own reseatch which found that 43 of the UK’s biggest employers would not bring workers back to their offices full-time.
Stephen Joseph, a visiting professor at the University of Hertfordshire, told BBC News: “Of course they’re going to have to review their investment – the Treasury will be asking them to justify it – and some schemes just can’t be justified.”
The government has been approached for comment. It hasn’t revealed details of any schemes that might potentially be cut, said the BBC. But some schemes in the £27bn roads programme may now be facing the axe in the post-Covid world, it said.
Chris Todd from the environmental group Transport Action Network (Tan) told the BBC: “The end of commuting as we know it undermines arguments for road expansion.
“Coming alongside new figures showing that carbon emissions and the economic case for smart motorways are far worse than forecast, the case for a change in direction is overwhelming. With the daily commute ending for many and ever more journeys being walked and cycled, giving up a car will make sense for many households.”
He added that it was “vital” that the government enable this societal change of habits towards cycling and public transport, by redirecting cash for roads into repairing potholes, creating new cycle lanes, improving bus services and providing long distance options for those who don’t own cars.
Supporters of road-building insist that demand will bounce back when the pandemic is over. But Mr Tan told the BBC he believes some road schemes will be judged economically unviable as a result of changing trends.