Facemask in lively metro

Overcoming uncertainty in the pandemic

Corona and public transport
The corona crisis affected all of us, but one of the sectors hit most was the public transport sector. The lockdown led to a decrease in the use of public transport in the Netherlands of ~50% in 2020 (in the first weeks declines of 80-90%1). Our client was faced with investment decisions on rail track capacity, vehicles, and line network. These decisions often need to be taken 5-10 years in advance for rail transport. Aside from direct investment, costing tens to hundreds of millions, these decisions impact passenger service, operations, and yearly cost levels for 30+ years. The client asked us how they can make the best investment and operational decisions when they were in the middle of the pandemic.

Adaptivity as key
Together with the government, the transport authority, and the public transport operator, we helped to tackle this decision-making. Starting off, we created multiple passenger-growth scenarios based on a custom-build, data-driven projection model. The different scenarios were necessary to understand the impact of the uncertainty caused by the coronavirus. What happens if commuters keep working at home multiple days a week? If schools/ universities spread their opening hours? If more/ less tourists return to the city or if there is a major economic recession? 

Simultaneously we created an overview of investment decisions and the drivers behind them (capacity, safety, replacement, etc.). We quantified their economic impact on the operation, the impact on passenger quality and the realisation lead times.  

Subsequently we performed scenario-analyses. For example: if the clients decide to invest now – how will they be able to reduce costs if less travellers return than anticipated? Or what are back-up plans if passenger growth is higher than anticipated? When do they need to decide on such a back-up plan?

We summarised the results from our scenario-analyses in comprehensive roadmaps, outlining the decision timeline and showing the interconnectivity of certain decisions. Based on these, clients can ensure that decisions will be made right on time: never too late, but often as late as possible to allow for the most informed decision in these uncertain times. This gave our clients the much-needed ability to adapt when the situation calls for a change of plans. 

After management discussion, these roadmaps were shared widely throughout the organisations to facilitate coherent decision making across levels in the various organisations.

The Corona crisis also brought about opportunities. Working together in broad expert teams across different disciplines, locations and organisations had never been so accessible without the usual travel and scheduling constraints. This opened opportunities for true multi-disciplinary and agile plan development. It not only strengthened the project outcome, but also improved cooperation and mutual understanding within the organisations. Hence, the new working has been embraced by the organisations.


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