Transport is having a moment. From a new runway at Heathrow getting the go-ahead from government, to Uber being granted a 15-month second-chance, to melting railways and train timetable fiascos, the way we get around has been taking some unexpected turns.
It’s not gone unnoticed either. 66% of people have seen news this week about Heathrow Airport; 65% have tuned into the news about Uber; and 60% of people have read stories about the UK’s trains.
The publicity, while widespread, has by no means been wholly positive. We probed people on their current opinions of UK transport, to see how individual institutions are weathering these storms.
After a court hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, Uber was granted a 15-month licence. The taxi firm has put various new measures in place to tackle TfL’s safety concerns and admitted that it realises it is still very much on probation.
On the whole, though, people are feeling good about the brand.
However, it’s not nearly so reassuring a picture when it comes to consumers’ perceptions of their personal safety when using the service. 12% of people often feel unsafe whilst in an Uber; 16% of people frequently feel unsafe; and a further 26% say it makes them feel occasionally unsafe. That’s 54% of people who have felt, or do feel, unsafe using the company. It’s a worrying figure when you think that much of their business is done at night, and passengers often need to use the service alone.
Men aren’t often the focus of conversations about personal safety, but this figure was almost exactly the same across men and women, showing that it’s certainly not just young women who feel uneasy taking a cab.
Uber has certainly acknowledged the serious safety concerns of its current business model. Back in May, Tom Elvidge, Uber’s UK general manager accepted the company’s failings in the Evening Standard: “There’s no doubt about it, we’d got things wrong along the way.”
In court again this week, Uber were clear on their understanding and acceptance of TfL’s ban, promising to work hard to earn back London’s trust. The changes they have made encompass the safety of passengers and drivers. Criminal incidents now get directly reported to the police; a 24/7 phone support line has been introduced; drivers’ private hire licence details are shown in the app; and drivers will have to take a 6-hour break after a 10 hour shift.
But are the changes sufficient, and have they been effectively publicised to make people feel that enough has been done?
In short, no. Only a small majority feel completely satisfied by the proposed changes, and a slightly larger proportion of people feel that the changes aren’t comprehensive enough. The clear majority of people feel that, while the measures are a start, there’s still more to be done.
Let’s fly away
Heathrow Airport is getting a major new runway. The third landing strip has been voted in by MPs, with Chris Grayling heralding the development as "a clear path to our future as a global nation in the post-Brexit world." It seems Britons are feeling widely positive about it too.
With only 13% of people feeling some degree of negativity towards the runway, it seems the population largely sides with those who say it will generate revenue and cement London as a global hub. This is in direct contrast with the environmental activists who cite the increase in pollution it will bring as damming enough for it not to go ahead.
Broadly, people didn’t feel it would significantly impact their lives: 57% of people said it wouldn’t impact them; 31% said they would be slightly impacted; and only 12% feel it will hugely change their lives.
Even more upsetting for the significant minority of MPs and campaigners fighting to stop the airport expanding, there was also a consensus that still more development would be beneficial. When asked about possible alternatives to a third Heathrow runway, only 16% of people chose an environmentally-friendly option.
28% would be happy to see a second runway at Gatwick instead; 25% would be in favour of extending existing Heathrow runway capacity; 24% would be happy seeing an airport in Central London; and a huge 30% think the best alternative would be to do all of the previous options. Clearly people want to see capacity solved for the long term.
Off the rails
Angry commuters have been making news for kicking at train gates in frustration, after the whole country has suffered from severe delays due to the heat. From the headlines, then, you might think that sentiment was unforgiving.
In reality, opinion is well and truly divided. While 49.6% of people did indeed feel angry that our infrastructure can’t handle a little heat, by a marginal majority, 50.4% of people felt that the train companies were doing their best. Perhaps Britons are more understanding than their early-morning disgruntlement would let on.
That said, there’s a definite feeling that train companies don’t merit any more resources to solve the problem.
In fact, while people might be understanding of the delays, they’re not convinced that the current operators are doing a good enough job. 52% of people think that trains should be nationalised, with a further 35% agreeing that this is perhaps a sensible idea. That leaves only 13% who think that the government wouldn’t do a better job than the current train companies, at running things.
Overall, Uber’s licence troubles, Heathrow expansion, and the national rail delays are flashes in the pan. Feelings towards the transport industry remain steady, with people ready to give all three another chance if the people responsible play their cards right.
If you’ve had some bad press recently, or feel that people are losing faith in your brand, get in touch to find out which consumer segments view you positively, what you can do to nurture them, and what you need to change to bring everyone else over to the same opinion.