On Wednesday 1st December the High Volume Transport team hosted our third Research Knowledge Exchange to share and explore the evidence base into how transport systems in the poorest countries responded to the challenges of COVID-19.
When the pandemic emerged in 2020, it was quickly clear that transport systems in several low income countries were struggling to cope. Chaos, overcrowding and a lack of suitable disinfection methods were just a few of the issues affecting them. While we knew transportation could play a crucial role in mitigating the spread of the disease and would be vital to keep economies moving, there was very little evidence of what worked and what didn’t.
So HVT published ‘A Call for Action on COVID-19’ to the transport community and awarded 20 research projects which formed the portfolio of the ‘COVID-19 Response and Recovery Transport Research’. The findings from all 20 projects were presented by HVT Team Leader Dr Bernard Obika as part of the event and can be downloaded in a compendium here.
The Research Knowledge Exchange was designed to spark discussion around the critical issues these research projects uncovered, enabling us to then take steps towards creating sustainable transport systems to support resilient communities.
Anne Joselin, Infrastructure Advisor at FCDO spoke at the event saying: “We’re pleased to see what we’ve learned through this research as we start to disseminate the results. Hopefully they will make a difference both if we have to do this again and, where relevant, in how we move forward, building back better from the pandemic.”
The keynote address of the session was given by Charlotte McClain-Nhlapo, Global Disability Advisor of the World Bank Group. She spoke about how the pandemic had highlighted the gaps in transport provision for persons with disabilities and the need to build back better.
Susanna Zammataro, Director General of the International Road Federation (IRF) walked attendees through the Global Transport Knowledge Portal – an urgently needed online platform providing fast-track, easy access for low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to up-to-date learning resources and good practices on COVID-19 impacts and responses. The portal, one of the 20 projects funded by HVT, functions like a free on-line library as well as a gateway to other relevant knowledge repositories and resources.
Following the plenary sessions, the RKE held three workshops focussing on the key areas of inclusion, urban transport and economic resilience. Each workshop presented an opportunity for attendees to hear the new research and to bring their own experiences to a discussion on the topic set by the moderators.
Speaking at the inclusion workshop was Research Consultant Gail Jennings who joined us from South Africa to present her findings on the impacts of mobility restrictions on women during Covid-19. Sonal Shah, founder of The Urban Catalysts, then spoke about the pandemic’s impact on poor women’s mobility, and how transport could address gender inequity in low and middle income countries in South Asia. Next came Professor M. Shafiq Ur-Rahman from the department of Urban and Regional Planning at Jahangirnagar University, Bangladesh who presented his research into the changed travel of elderly and disabled people due to Covid.
At the urban transport workshop, Rutul Joshi, from CEPT University in Gujarat, India, spoke about his work on scaling up sustainable urban transport agendas and building resilience in the post-Covid world. Constant Cap, Urban Planner and Product Manager at Code for Africa, then presented the findings from his investigation into the use of bicycles in Sub Saharan Africa.
The third workshop, focussed on economic resilience, was presented by Kevin McPherson of TRL, who spoke about the production of a guide to help transport planners, public health planners and transport operators improve resilience to future pandemics. He was joined on the panel by Dr Jagadish C. Pokharel of the Nepal Institute for Urban and Regional Studies, who detailed how confidence in public transport through enforcement of health protocols can contribute to economic revitalization in a post-pandemic context.
Moderators Ann Frye, Holger Dalkmann and Bruce Thompson moderated the conversations and managed questions from attendees leading to lively and well-informed discussions on all three topics. The event represented a valuable opportunity for the sharing of ideas. In closing, Bernard Obika summed up its success, saying: “I firmly believe that the Compendium and this RKE is a significant contribution to the arsenal of evidence to changing the narrative for more resilient transport systems.”
Watch the full session plus selected workshops below.