Hi everyone, sorry for the long gap - life has got a bit hectic, the storm before the enforced calm if you will. And in a matter of days the way of life, as we knew it, has changed, maybe forever. We are, effectively, at war. War with an invisible enemy who, left unchecked, has the potential to wipe out a proportion of the human population. It is already doing so in Italy, Spain, and Iran. It will do here unless people start taking it seriously.
In the last month the rail line to Berney Arms was re-opened. I was on the first train to stop there and it was great occasion. They may as well close it again. We are being told not to use public transport unless the journey is essential. There can be no possible "essential" journey to Berney Arms and anyone who gets the train there is putting others at risk. You can see from the header pic that more Class 745's are entering service. 745005 was the latest to enter on Thursday, and I've been told the last Class 90 loco hauled service will be tomorrow. Think on that. It was only two weeks ago I was told by a driver they expected the 90's to hang around till June. Now it's tomorrow. I'll try and find a very remote spot to take a pic, but it won't be a station, I won't attempt to travel on it, and that hurts. But since I had to pass through London on Thursday it would be highly inconsiderate of me to get close to any rail workers doing their best to keep the system going for those who really DO need to travel. But the fact it's happening speaks volumes, and suggests the reduced services starting tomorrow are here for a long time.
My mother is currently in assessment care in Kent, having been in hospital for 10 days after falling seriously ill with everything apart from Covid-19. Her assessment centre is in lock down, and I managed to wave at her through a window. As she's very confused right now heaven only knows what she's thinking, but I travelled down mainly to mothball her house until such time she needs it again as neither I nor my brother will be staying there as we have been over the last few weeks. It was the journey down that brought everything home to me. The 0740 Norwich to Liverpool Street normally carries well over 500 passengers. On Thursday there were 17 of us who travelled to London. 17 passengers on a 12 coach morning peak train. It was surreal.
Not wanting to use the Underground I doubled back to Stratford - which was busier than Liverpool St - and caught DLR to Woolwich. The Train Captains were chaining off the most popular seats at the front of the train and operating the doors from there, isolating themselves from passengers.
In Kent buses were being well used, and although the High St was quiet most of the shops still seemed well patronised. Not a patch on the shopping centres at Stratford, though, which were positively heaving as I journeyed home. The 1700 out of Liverpool St was busier than the journey up, but I reckon still less than 25% of its usual demand. I watched the train I alighted from at Darsham pull out the station, and wondered when my next trip on public transport would be. It won't be anytime soon. I have no need now. Cars are actually safer if travelling alone and if I really do need to get essential supplies I'll do it by road.
Eventually everyone else will get the message and public transport use will all but die. Who knows if it will ever recover to its former state. I doubt it. I was reading a blog by my good friend Roger French earlier, who suggested the only way forward would be to nationalise the rail and bus industries again until they were back on their feet, thus preserving jobs and services. I think he's right. Although this is an invisible war it is still a war, and wartime measures and thinking need to happen. If they don't then there will be no transport system to recover when this is over as everyone will have gone bust. Paying 80% of wages is one thing, but if there is no revenue coming in how are things like maintenance, fuel costs and insurance kept going? The State needs to take over and run all public services until the country has recovered enough to stand on its own to feet again - a bit like my poor old mum.
My heart goes out to everyone in the transport industry. I read a letter posted by Ensign the other day, apologising for having to cut services, and it almost broke my heart. There are people who have devoted their lives to the transport industry who are watching everything they have worked for come crashing down. The State owes them not only to save their operations, but to use their experience and wisdom to rebuild the transport network as and when the health issues allow. If they don't then everything could disappear outside London and other areas authority run.
When it does recover I can see changes to travelling behaviour happening that until the last few days would have been unthinkable. I was chatting to a couple of BTP officers at Liverpool St on Thursday, and we agreed that businesses would suddenly realise the value of employees working from home, the reduction of cost maintaining company premises, being able to downsize, and from the employees point of view the joy of the lack of daily commute, not to mention the cost and more time with their loved ones. We could see a huge reduction in demand at peak hours as businesses take stock and alter working practices.
Only time will tell, but in the meantime I urge anyone who doesn't have to use public transport not to. The fewer people that go out the harder it will be for the virus to spread. It's that simple. I'm listening to the traffic go by my window on a Sunday afternoon and wonder where the hell everyone is going - they can't all be hospital or other key workers.
To all my friends in the transport industry I'll be praying for you, everyone from MD's to cleaners. Thank you for what you're doing, those who will genuinely need your services will owe you a debt of gratitude, and let's all hope you are all still very much still doing what you do best long into the future. However, I do not genuinely need your services, so for the time being I'm putting the blog on ice. I won't be going out doing what I love - riding buses and trains - for who knows how long, until Government advise changes I guess, although if the last cl90 services is tomorrow then Greater Anglia don't believe this will be on the way out in 12 weeks anymore than the rest of us do. I'll still be active on Twitter (@busandtrainpage) so give me a follow there for any updates and what will be rare pics or vids.
Stay safe, be sensible, and we'll wait to see what colour light is at the end of this tunnel.