How we travel is changing dramatically and that may not be so bad
Train services across the North West are increasing their numbers today as coronavirus lockdown restrictions ease. But don’t expect to board one any time soon – and get ready for some big changes as to how we travel and how we work. And not just for the next couple of weeks, but long-term too.
In the short term expect to see a huge drive for creating temporary new cycle and walking lanes, especially after £2billion of funding was made available by the Government. You may also see the widening of pavements, and more flexibility – hopefully – from companies which previously claimed it was impossible for their employees to work away from a centralised office environment.
Enjoy a period of less time in meetings (except virtual ones, on Zoom, Skype and Microsoft Team), less time wasted commuting, less time sat in your car on roads clogged up with traffic cones.
Merseytravel and Northern have both announced that they are increasing the number of trains from today that they will be operating between destinations such as Southport, Liverpool, Manchester and Wigan.
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Both companies however are doing what they can to stop passengers getting back on board.
Boris Johnson may be easing lockdown rules in a bid to get Britain back to work, but it may be some time before we are all standing in line and making that daily commute to the big city.
Northern said: “We’re calling on people to help us keep the railway clear for those who need it most and to only take the train if there’s no other way to travel.”
Merseyrail, which offers free journeys to NHS staff, is telling customers: “Only those who absolutely must travel by train, should do so.”
Government figures reveal that the numbers of people working from home has increased from 12% this time last year to around 44% now and it is going to take a while before that figure comes down.
Home and flexible working may suit some, but for those who have little space at home or with noisy children under their feet may find concentrating on work proving difficult.
Next Big Thing Developments (NBTD) recently submitted plans for a huge new creative hub and regeneration space at 113 Liverpool Road in Crosby which would include creative workspaces and cafes.
Anyone looking to make some serious money should consider opening similar ventures in Southport, and elsewhere in the North West.
Increasingly, as companies become more flexible about how employees work, life will become more about where we live than where we work. Why live and work in a big city when you can live and work in a beautiful seaside town like Southport?
If you can walk or cycle to work then your quality of life and your health will be greater. So will your lack of exposure to any potential virus. Sefton Council has already moved quickly to widen and improve the cycle lane along the Coastal Road. Smart, dynamic thinking by councils will be crucial.
Read More: Our teachers ARE heroes! It’s time we recognised what they are doing during Covid-19 crisis
Who knows yet how soon the current ‘coronavirus curve’ will flatten, or whether we will yet see a second, or a third wave, of infections?
Don’t go hanging your hat on a Donald Trump-style miracle vaccine just yet.
Now might be a good time to start thinking about repurposing our town centres.
Take Lord Street for example. We have lots of empty space above shops in the town centre. And lots of empty space full-stop in sizeable buildings once occupied by the likes of Debenhams, Beales, the Grand Casino and the Southport Visiter. Could shared spaces like the one proposed for Crosby be among the answers?
Bringing life and vibrancy , and more opportunities for people to live in our town centres would certainly help them avoid the long commute, while creating more footfall and more trade for many local businesses. Shopping locally now is more important than ever.
In the short term we need to help our public transport, our trains and our buses, get back on their feet slowly.
People have to be sensible if we’re not to get scenes like we have witnessed in London.
Commuters need to think of the health of staff on our public transport and fellow passengers – many of whom will no doubt work for the NHS – as well as their own.
Those for whom travel is essential will find vastly reduced capacity on services. Seats taped off. Longer waiting times to use public transport. Some stations missed out on journeys.
You may even have to change the time you travel, with ‘rush hour’ fast becoming a thing of the past. Please be patient with public transport staff while they work under challenging conditions.
How you travelled before will never be the same again. Don’t expect to emerge from lockdown and see things suddenly go back to exactly how they were.
But is that necessarily a bad thing? This ‘new normal’ may take some getting used to, but it also gives us a fantastic chance to create much better ways of living, working and travelling.
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