While the immediate impacts of the global pandemic have been visible at sight, such as reduced usage and fare revenue due to social distancing, the indirect impacts to the health and safety of local communities including road and traffic safety, require deeper analysis. With a renewed public confidence since the initial lockdowns, the physical space and the requirement for social distancing are likely to continue in the near future.
With this in mind, the CEI Fund at the EBRD has financed the study Impact on the Use of Public Transport due to COVID-19 Pandemic in the Western Balkans, published in September 2021.
The analysis has assessed the impacts on public transport operations in the main cities in the Western Balkans - and it has identified practical measures that have the potential to reduce health and safety risks to vulnerable passengers and road users.
Through a two-phase approach during the period March-July 2021, the study first conducted a data collection and literature review of potential similar analyses, then it undertook surveys of public transport operators, road safety and public health NGOs, users of the public transport system and direct interviews with a number of organisations in the fields of public transport, traffic safety and public health.
Overall, the research found that changes in mobility behaviour patterns have negatively affected the business operations of public transport operators in all of the analysed cities and will almost certainly continue to negatively affect them. Moreover, aside from small-scale analyses in some of the countries mainly developed by the NGO sector, this region ought to receive a more comprehensive inquiry.
Therefore, more substantial work needs to be done to outweigh the impacts of the pandemic on the public transport systems in all of the analysed cities in terms of reducing health and safety risks to vulnerable passengers and road users. This can be achieved by working on restoring trust and confidence in the safety of public transport services by prioritising health and safety issues and by making public transport a safer way of travelling in times of social distancing.
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