COVID-19 Impact on Transport: A Paper from the Railways’ Systems Research Perspective

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - rail, place - asia, place - europe, technology - emissions, planning - integration, planning - environmental impact, ridership - behaviour


COVID-19, greenhouse gas (GHG) emission, risk management


This paper analyzes the possible impacts of the 2019 coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on the transport sector and specifically on the railways. It aims at investigating how the sector should approach the “new normal.” The pandemic had repercussions not only on the interaction between producers and consumers but also on the environment, therefore changing the supply chain. The health crisis halted passengers’ mobility and limited air and sea freight capacity significantly, consequently producing a positive impact on the environment. However, the low production trend of greenhouse gas (GHG) emission is expected to reverse once containment measures are lifted. Transport will have an important role in the predicted rebound effect of GHG emissions; thus, the development of green new mobility is essential. In light of these aspects, this study argues that a new resilient paradigm of mobility must be developed for future health emergencies which meets environmental demands. This paper introduces the five “R”s—resilience, return, reimagination, reform, and research—as the necessary steps the rail sector will need to address to better continue to provide services throughout future crises. In particular, the paper highlights new avenues for research which can play an essential role in enhancing rail competitiveness and resilience within future crises. In conclusion, this paper reminds that the pandemic might be considered as a testing ground for upcoming crises and an opportunity to introduce the discussion about a new green and public paradigm of mobility.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by SAGE, copyright remains with them.