UCL Department of Science, Technology, Engineering and Public Policy


UCL STEaPP researchers contribute to report on infrastructure use beyond COVID-19

23 June 2021

Dr Ine Steenmans and Dr Jenny McArthur have provided major contributions to the National Infrastructure Commission’s report on behaviour change and infrastructure beyond COVID-19.

Tube station with covid posters

The report analyses a range of scenarios for how the use of public transport, broadband networks and utilities might change because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Noting that it is too early to assume that forced changes during the pandemic will result in ongoing shifts in behaviour, the report has developed five scenarios for different plausible futures based on varied amounts of home working, movement from cities and appetite for social gatherings.

Dr Ine Steenmans, Lecturer in Futures, Analysis and Policy in UCL STEaPP, was part of the Lead Expert Group for the report and advised on the methodology for the Commission’s scenario-based approach. Dr Jenny McArthur, Lecturer in Urban Infrastructure and Public Policy in UCL STEaPP, authored one of the studies included in the report, on the impacts of historic shocks on infrastructure demand.

The report suggests that public transport is the sector most heavily affected by behaviour change but the evaluation of previous disruptive events, which in Dr McArthur’s analysis included the SARS outbreak in Taiwan in 2003, and the Auckland Blackout in 1998, suggests that permanent behaviour change will depend on the actions of policymakers to ensure that public transport is affordable, reliable, and safe.

Based on the five scenarios mapped out in the report, the Commission suggests that policymakers should consider how policy can encourage preferred shifts in behaviour and that given the extent of uncertainty about future behavioural change, comparing the variance between these scenarios is the most useful insight for infrastructure planning.

The Commission proposes that, despite the considerable uncertainty about the future, major infrastructure decisions cannot be unduly postponed and close attention will need to be paid to how the recovery unfolds, informed by better data sources that may highlight significant trends.

Other members of the STEaPP community involved in the report include Professor Brian Collins and Dr Natasha McCarthy, who were also members of the Lead Expert Group. The full report, Behaviour change and infrastructure beyond Covid-19, can be downloaded from the National Infrastructure Commission website.


Photo by Edward Howell on Unsplash