The UITP together with the Community of European Railways and Infrastructure Mangers (CER), Polis, Eurocities, and the permanent delegation to the EU (IRU) sent the letter to Ms Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, Mr Charles Michel, president of the European Council, and Mr David Maria Sassoli, president of the European Parliament.

The group says that maintaining basic public transport services is vital for European citizens carrying out essential functions. They also want a guarantee that protection equipment will be made available to safeguard the health and safety of public transport workers.

While public transport operators have already taken preventative measures and are sharing information and best practice to protect staff and passengers and maintain services, the group wants more support from EU institutions and member states.

Best practices include:

  • ensuring all workers receive the latest and most accurate information about Covid-19 including ways to limit and avoid transmission
  • providing staff with hand sanitisers to limit the spread of the virus
  • regular deep cleaning and disinfection of vehicles and assets
  • limiting interaction between staff and passengers
  • adapting services according to current demand
  • providing dedicated services for healthcare personnel and other people providing essential services, and
  • temporarily releasing employees with a higher risk of infection from active service.

Huge traffic drop

While the group says it is currently difficult to assess the economic and financial impact of the coronavirus pandemic, some cities are already recording an 85% drop in passenger traffic coupled with additional costs for disinfecting stations and trains, and other vehicles, and implementing social distancing measures.

“In order to limit these social, economic and financial consequences as well as to facilitate continuity of service, exceptional measures will need to be adopted very rapidly,” the group says. “We especially welcome the Commission’s proposal to activate the general escape clause of the Stability and Growth Pact. We call therefore on the Council to endorse the Commission’s proposal.”

Once the Covid-19 public health situation stabilises, the group says public transport will play an even greater role in revitalising the European economy. “Financial cash flow is critical now more than ever in order to sustain the capacity and delivery of passenger transport services,” the group says. “After the Covid-19 crisis, financial support should be extended to the stakeholders in the passenger transport sector as this will only assist in the subsequent economic recovery.”