The narrative surrounding the world we know is focused on ‘getting back to normal’. But is the old ‘normal’ what we really want, or should we be aspiring to something new? We consider the future of road infrastructure in a post-Covid nation.

There’s no way around it: our roads matter. As lockdown restrictions are being eased, and the sales of second-hand private cars are increasing, what challenges does road infrastructure face?

Lack of data and the unknown

There’s a risk of industry paralysis due to the lack of data. Thankfully, this is the first and very hopefully the last pandemic of this scale that we’ll experience in our lifetime. With this, however, comes a lot of unanswered questions. Will something like this happen again? When, if at all, will social distancing end? With 40% of workers [1] thinking they could do their job from home, what is the future of commuting?

The need for clear priorities

Investment, user experience and the battle for space. It’s not necessarily about an all or nothing approach; there should remain a focus on what are often the missing links. The rail connection to get into the major city is functional, but if you live a distance away from the station, how do we get there without relying on the use of a private car?

Carbon reductions and resilience

Copper’s public attitudes to net zero emissions in the UK report finds that the public supports change in investment priorities to support low carbon infrastructure, with a particular focus on greener transport options. So how do we make the positive changes from the pandemic stick? There’s a clear need for any economic recovery plan to be considered in parallel with recovery resilience actions for carbon neutrality.

As Rachel Skinner, UK Head of Transport at WSP rightly said the coronavirus has given us evidence from an experiment of such proportion that we would’ve never been able to conduct. We shouldn’t be looking to change our transport modes this year only because we have to; we should look every year because we’re choosing to.

[1] YouGov, Who are the Britons working from home?