WHEN I was first elected UITP president during the General Assembly at the Global Public Transport Summit in Montreal in May 2017, the public transport sector was at a turning point with the inclusion of new mobility players, a more active role in climate action and continuing population growth within our cities.

When I won a second two-year mandate in 2019, only one year later public transport faced obstacles and challenges like never before – the coronavirus pandemic. Covid-19 changed everything.

My first term was about public transport growth and development - working with new stakeholders, forming new partnerships - while the second term was about demonstrating how vital public transport is to our cities during a global health crisis. We had to make the case for the sector in new ways, by advocating financial investment, political attention, and working with the international UITP membership to make sure public transport did not slip off the radar. UITP has shown its importance as a platform for all players in the industry to exchange ideas.

The most notable achievement for me as UITP president has been the opportunity to meet people in various countries, seeing the diversity of people and their approaches. It is after all the people who make public transport.

I have learned to always have faith in public transport - and we must make sure that those in decision-making roles show their own faith.

Pere Calvet

I won’t say that I have learned how resilient and cooperative the public transport sector is, as this was never in doubt. But I have realised even more how strong the community spirit is within public transport - by taking the necessary steps across networks, authorities and operators to not only withstand what Covid-19 brought, but also to look ahead to building back better together. This is vital if we are to ensure our cities remain accessible, vibrant, and liveable.

Many sectors and industries across the globe have faced great change, but public transport remained there for passengers, and with the right incentives it can become even stronger for the future. I have learned to always have faith in public transport - and we must make sure that those in decision-making roles show their own faith.

From the very beginning of the pandemic, authorities and operators have approached Covid-19 with extreme seriousness. Public transport has faced lockdowns, working from home rules, and reduced movement at various stages throughout the pandemic. We know that this has greatly impacted the sector and created the need for a focus on not only building back better but considering what needs to be done to bring passengers back.

We all know that the future of our cities must be led by public transport. A return to more cars and increased traffic is not the solution. We have an opportunity to envision a new way - a reset if you like. It will not be easy as we rebuild, but throughout the pandemic, the sector has been focused on showing the many ways in which public transport is Covid-safe. The research, data, and insight available shows that the infection risk onboard public transport is extremely low. If we want passengers to continue feeling safe then we must make sure these messages are heard.

Another priority is to encourage people to return to their previous mobility patterns. Making sure that they do not move to single person car journeys, but instead retain public transport use as part of their daily travel. A lot of work has been done to demonstrate the positive reasons for using public transport; networks across the globe are launching communication campaigns reminding passengers of the many ways in which public transport remained there for them during the pandemic, and this work will continue.

We know that one day the pandemic will come to an end, but what comes after that must be considered. The climate change crisis continues, and road safety, social inclusion and, economic issues will remain major talking points. Public transport is vital to all of this.

Every challenge hides opportunities, even though it is hard for me to say anything positive while the pandemic is still causing so much suffering around the world.

It has certainly been a stress test that we have been able to succeed at. It has also accelerated technological and organisational changes that will result in greater productivity and efficiency of public transport companies.

Perhaps, most importantly, it has highlighted the essential nature of public transport and created awareness in the population of the importance of reclaiming a more pacified and quieter urban environment. An awareness that should help the development of better public transport systems all over the world.