The term resilience infers that large-scare disruptions are possible and likely to occur. When they happen, they must be dealt with appropriately and in a time-sensitive manner, applying methods that address these issues and curtail the impact on operations. With regard to transport systems, resilience is often discussed in the context of climate change, in order to avoid or reduce asset damage or unavailability, for example to create resilience to extreme weather events to reduce damage to roads and lowering safety risks. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the necessity of resilience on another level.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented challenges for the entire transport sector, it has also highlighted the necessity of having a resilient transport system to ensure a continuous supply of goods and movement of essential workers. At the same time, however, transport can unfortunately provide a mechanism for spreading contagious diseases, a fact little attention has been paid to in the past. Moving forward, the transport sector should plan for greater resilience towards future pandemics and to prevent disease spread as much as possible. As “Building Back Better” progresses, the transport sector must ensure it does so with resilience to various risks in mind and in a way that contributes to achieving universal access, efficiency, safety and green mobility.
In responding to COVID-19, the transport sector witnessed a variety of short-term actions and policy measures across high, middle and low income countries. For these short-term actions to be more effective in the longer term, transport and health sectors need an integrated approach.
With support from the HVT Programme, TRL has prepared guidelines providing practical guidance (report soon available) for the sector and for LMICs more specifically. They are based on best practice of transport agencies around the world in responding to COVID-19, as well as other pandemics and natural disasters. Amongst others, it describes operational measures that transport organisations should consider at the start of a pandemic. Preparedness for future pandemics can be improved by clear operational guidance on health and safety of transport workers, health and safety of the traveling public (especially key workers who often have to rely on public transport), and continued provision of key services during restrictions.
Further, there are key strategic measures that national and urban transport agencies can take to better plan and prepare for pandemics, specifically regarding integration and coordination of planning across the transport and health sectors and wider government. In an ideal world, any strategic responses to pandemics would be aligned with sustainable transport policies. Resilience to pandemics is considered here as part of measures to achieve sustainable transport.
Lastly, there are operational and strategic measures that can be considered by the transport sector in a country to help improve its resilience to future pandemics. These can be used by governments and stakeholders in LICs to help devise their policies and plans; and by multilateral development banks and donors to formulate terms of reference to assist LICs in developing their policies and plans.
The International Transport Forum released a Brief in which they discuss the importance of Re-spacing our Cities for Resilience. One of the key take-aways outlined is the need to link emergency infrastructure to long-term objectives.
EUI released a paper discussing how the pandemic may present an opportunity for accelerating the roll-out of Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS), thereby improving the overall efficiency of the transport system and to reduce reliance on private cars in urban centers. By doing so, MaaS can contribute to the reduction of both CO2 emissions and pollution.