The transport sector must emerge from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic as a driver of sustainable growth with three critical factors in mind—SDG, which in this case stands for “Safety, Data, and Green,” Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Masatsugu Asakawa said at the 7th Asia and the Pacific Transport Forum 2020 today.
“The pandemic dealt the transport sector a massive blow that will be felt for years,” Mr. Asakawa told the online gathering, taking place from 24 to 28 August, with more than 1,200 participants from government, businesses, academia and international organizations across Asia and the Pacific. “Our work now is to focus on mitigating the negative effects of the pandemic so that economies can adapt to the changed landscape and rejuvenate transport services. At the same time, issues that existed before the pandemic still require action. These include transport infrastructure, road safety, and freight and public transport challenges.”
He was speaking at the start of the opening high-level panel on the New Normal for Transport in Developing Asia. The panel was joined by Secretary General of the International Transport Forum Young Tae Kim, Chief Executive Officer of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy Heather Thompson, President Director of PT Blue Bird Noni Purnomo, and Chief of the ADB Transport Sector Group Jamie Leather. The panelists shared their respective views on the pandemic’s effects on the sector, and actions being taken across the region and globe to adapt transport to the new normal.
During the panel discussion, participants heard that as the lockdowns are beginning to be lifted, traffic congestion is returning, especially since a constrained supply and passengers’ anxieties about safety of public transport have sparked a switch to private vehicles.
In the short term, more effort is needed to reassure public transport users of safety and rebuild public confidence, Mr. Asakawa said. Second, data are required to fully understand the evolving situation of the pandemic and inform strategic direction for projects. Third, there are many opportunities to develop a greener transport future. For example, app-based delivery systems have become a feature of daily life but risk adding to road congestion and pollution. “To address this, we must promote a green recovery focused on sustainability,” Mr. Asakawa said. “One option is to support a shift to electric vehicles. ADB also sees opportunities to promote walking and cycling in Asian cities, and to improve the efficiency of logistics and supply chains.”
In the first half of 2020, ADB has invested in a wide range of projects in the transport sector to support its recovery and investment. Those include $235 million for a bus rapid transit system in Karachi, Pakistan, and inter-island transport in Kiribati. ADB is also helping to build a new climate resilient port in Nauru and improve the quality and safety of rural roads in Bangladesh.
ADB Vice-President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development Bambang Susantono is to deliver closing remarks to the forum on 28 August. He will also speak on 26 August at the first workshop on the Implementation of the Asia-Pacific Road Safety Observatory, reinforcing ADB’s commitment to road safety. The observatory will gather data from across the region and help policymakers, engineers, and transport asset managers to improve Asian roads and reduce loss of life.