The Lithuanian Innovation Centre organised a Stakeholder Meeting in Vilnius on 4th June 2020 as part of the RECREATE project – 5th semester. The meeting was attended by representatives of the transport sector, government officials, business support agencies, transport business associations and universities.
The Stakeholder Meeting was divided into three parts. The first presentation was about transport and mobility in the context of COVID-19 and potential consequences for the sector. Due to the spread of the virus, various restrictions were imposed not only in Lithuania, but also in other regions and, as a result, transport and other related sectors were heavily influenced. According to Google calculations, mobility of people in Lithuania was negatively influenced as an increased number of people spends much more time at home or in local parks. Usage of public transport or shared mobility services also saw a huge drop, while e-commerce and related transportation activities increased significantly. Most of Lithuanian freight transport companies were influenced negatively: 93% reported a drop in turnover, 82% experienced a drop in orders, settlements were late in 72% of businesses.
Some considerations were made by looking at the impact of COVID-19 on transport related activities, how the sector will look like after the crisis, what trends will stay and what processes will be fostered:
• Green transport and environmental initiatives will become even more important;
• Safety paradigm will change and include not only the prevention of car accidents, but also a spread of diseases by implementing new safety measures (disinfection / layout of the vehicle);
• Use of public transport will decrease while the use of mobility as a service will increase;
• Companies will have to consider their workforce issues – how to ensure employees safety and work under various constraints;
• Transport manufacturers will be negatively impacted by the COVID-19, however, some of them might shift their production to other types of transport.
The second presentation was delivered by the CEO of a transport company, Semitransa Ltd, and provided some insights on how freight transport companies have operated during this difficult period. Because of the restrictions implemented in Lithuania and in other markets, many manufacturing companies, warehouses and services were closed, border control was tightened, various regions were isolated. In addition, some regulations on how businesses should operate changed. The majority of freight transport companies in Lithuania, especially SMEs, experienced shortage of working capital and faced financial commitment challenges. Looking at the future, potential protectionism and the Mobility Package approved by the EU were highlighted as well as uncertain financial perspectives for small transport companies and future potential restrictions related to COVID-19.
The final session was dedicated to discussions between the participants. It was noted that COVID-19 will not bring anything new to the sector as most tendencies were relevant before the pandemic. However, COVID-19 will act as an accelerator for some changes. Safety and health were particularly important to the participants as these will probably see the biggest change compared to the situation before COVID-19.