NXWM highlights the effects of low traffic on journey times

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West Midlands key workers risk losing one of the few benefits they gained during lockdown: their time. So says National Express West Midlands (NXWM), whose latest data shows that bus journeys across its region are taking half as much time as they did before the pandemic took a lot of traffic off the streets. Among examples cited, NXWM says that a nurse living in Northfield and getting the bus to Priory Queensway in Birmingham city centre to work at the Children’s Hospital would have spent an average of 51 minutes on the bus in heavy traffic before lockdown. That journey during lockdown is 23 minutes – or 45% – quicker, and takes just 28 minutes.

NXWM says that all bus journeys are much more punctual than they were before lockdown: in the morning peak, less than 2% of its buses are late in current conditions. However, Department for Transport statistics for 24 August 2020 show that car use is already back up to 94% of pre-lockdown levels.

Tom Stables, Managing Director of National Express UK, said: “Our key workers have got us through this crisis. One of the few silver linings to come out of this horrible pandemic is that we’ve been able to give nurses and binmen back their own precious time. As we come out of lockdown, we need to keep the region’s buses running smoothly by protecting them from traffic congestion. If we don’t, our NHS heroes will again be spending more and more of their free time on buses stuck in traffic, when they should be at home with their loved ones.”

The air has also been much cleaner than pre-virus. April saw levels of poisonous nitrogen oxides in Birmingham fall by over a third. But they are creeping up again as more people get back in their cars – and the effects of pollution fall harder on people on lower incomes.

A recent survey of 7,000 people carried out by Transport for West Midlands showed that the three key things people wanted as a legacy of Covid-19 were cleaner air, quieter roads and a better work-life balance.