A study from the Capgemini Research Institute shows people in a post-pandemic world will continue to avoid public and shared transport, potentially increasing grey fleet use and impacting the wider mobility market.

The report is entitled Shifting gears: Covid-19 and the fast-changing automotive consumer. The research highlighted a huge shift in attitude away from travelling by public transport and car share.

At the beginning a survey asked more than 10,000 people in 10 major countries whether they would choose their car over public transport. At that time (April 2020) less than half (44%) of respondents said ‘yes’.

By November, that had increased to 78%, with similar trends seen in people’s attitudes towards the use of car-pool services, such as car clubs and ridehailing services.

In the UK, just 8% of people see buses, trains, and trams as their primary means of transport, compared with 21% before the pandemic.

Four-in-five (81%) said they would avoid using car-pool services owing to health and safety concerns, up from 42%

78% added they would steer clear of ride-hailing services, an increase on 40% when the first lockdown was introduced.

87% of respondents said their safety was ‘best served’ through their own vehicle, a rise from the first survey when it was 57%.

John Webb, principal consultant at Lex Autolease, said: “We’re getting clear signals from all sectors that working life is never going to be the same again in terms of travel”.

However, it is still to be seen what impact this will have on employers as restrictions are lifted and we enter a post-pandemic world.

Webb commented: “You have to look at how much business is going to change. How much individual perceptions have changed – the actual risk as opposed to the real risk”.

He is urging employers to review their travel policies to ensure they reflect employees’ concerns. Whereas previously employers would have been able to suggest public transport as a solution, if employees say they do not feel safe travelling by rail, the employer will need to adapt its travel policies.

“The potential there is to create pressure on the grey feet,” continued Webb. “That creates challenges, because grey fleet emissions are reportable under the SECR (Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting scheme) and so there is more accountability on organisations to manage grey fleet emissions”.

New data from the Department for Transport (DfT) shows during the latest lockdown, rail use has fallen to about 14% of usual levels – it has never been higher than 43% since the start of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the London Underground is currently carrying approximately 18% of its expected passenger numbers and has never exceeded 45% since the first lockdown was introduced.

Peter Golding, managing director at FleetCheck, says the Capgemini research should set alarm bells ringing for fleet managers.

“Grey fleet already outnumbers conventional company cars by a ratio of around six-to-one and this research indicates that proportion could increase over the next year,” he said.

“This will have all kinds of implications for employers – ranging from potentially greater demand for at-work parking through to a need to upgrade (grey fleet) safety inspection procedures.”

The Capgemini report showed that 45% of people are now planning on buying their own vehicle within the next 12 months compared with 27% last April.

It also highlighted a growing interest in car ownership from younger people (aged 18-35), with 59% considering buying a car in the next 12 months, up from 40% in April.