Public transport must focus on hygiene in post-COVID-19 era: ITF

The transport sector had focused its attention on security, comfort and coverage, but missed hygiene, says the secretary-general of ITF

The world’s public transport sector will have to focus on hygiene and disease prevention in the post-COVID-19 era, an aspect of service that the industry had not taken into account thus far, the secretary-general of the International Transport Forum (ITF) Young Tae Kim said on Tuesday.

Addressing a virtual media conference at the ITF summit, which is annually held in Leipzig, Germany, he said the transport sector had focused its attention on security, comfort and coverage, but missed hygiene. A major theme of the conference this year is Transport Innovation for Sustainable Development. Creating a resilient recovery for all sectors of transport after the pandemic, including freight, is a frontrunning topic.

People were fearful of public transport today, and the industry had not expected such a crisis, the secretary-general said, acknowledging that even some governments were now encouraging people to use private cars as a way to reduce density, and thus the spread of the coronavirus.

“In the end, we will have an upgraded system, a new normal,” Mr. Young Tae Kim said, pointing to the collaborative work it was doing with UITP, the International Association for Public Transport, which represents corporations, operators and service providers.

The ITF has published Covid-19 and Transport: A Compendium downloadable from its website (, dealing with several aspects of a recovery, including infrastructure investment, and the role of transport in supporting health systems during the pandemic.

Road Safety observatories

Road safety was another area where ITF was working with different global regions, said Wei-Shiuen Ng, advisor, sustainable transport and global outreach at ITF. Given the importance of good data in understanding the true burden of road traffic injuries, and not just deaths, the ITF had launched regional observatories that help reform data collection.

At present, there was often a mismatch between official national statistics and the World Health Organization’s Global Status Report data. The Asia Pacific Observatory was the latest under this initiative, and India could tap into this option to review its road safety data practices.

Safer roads are part of the Sustainable Development Goals 2030 framework, and SDG target 3.6 aims at halving the number of global deaths and injuries from road traffic accidents. In addition, SDG target 11.2 seeks to provide access to safe, affordable, accessible and sustainable transport systems and improve road safety for all.

As part of its focus on Asia, ITF, a 62-member inter-governmental organisation at the OECD collaborates with India. The ongoing initiatives include decarbonisation as a climate change imperative. The partnerships aim to help emerging economies develop tools for efficient policymaking and identification of priorities.

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