18 April 2020

Coronavirus Diary Number 1

Monday 23 March

The PM 'instructed' the British public to stay at home today and while I drove home from work there did feel an eerie silence on the roads. This does potentially spell disaster for traditional family-run coach operators, though, whose business model relies heavily on day trips and holidays. The schools closing to all but children of key workers last Friday was already a possible nail in their coffin. Today also marked the introduction of reduced timetables for local bus services and national rail services. All industries are struggling to maintain staff numbers at the required level to run advertised timetables and so with drops in usage of around 70% it makes eminent sense to significantly cut services so that those offered can be relied upon. With a so-called 'Lockdown' now imposed, I did consider just how further usage could drop and whether further reductions in service are now likely.

Wednesday 1 April

Today starts the first of fourteen days where my family and I need to self-isolate owing to my daughter registering a body temperature in excess of 37.8C. She was ill when I collected her from school yesterday and the last thing I want to do is send her back where she could potentially infect children of other key workers. I've woken up today feeling rather hot and bothered and also have a body temperature in excess of 37.8C. Neither of us has a persistent, dry cough (yet?) so we shall see how things progress over the following days. The need to immediately self-isolate if anyone in your household displays Coronavirus symptoms has been a requirement long before the 'Lockdown' and is the main reason why transport operators have been struggling to maintain their normal service levels. I've been told that Network Rail in particular is struggling to maintain service levels in its signal boxes with Doncaster Power Signal Box particularly affected. No signallers = no trains; it's that simple.

Friday 3 April

I had considered my family's self-isolation at precisely the time I needed to put the finishing touches to the forthcoming edition of the LEYTR a positive to come out of an otherwise disruptive situation, but I feel particularly ill and so unfortunately the LEYTR is on the back-burner. I continue to suspect that neither me nor my daughter have Coronavirus but with the potential for larger numbers in society to display mild or no symptoms, who really knows, until a reliable antibody test is mass produced? All around me, though, bus and coach operators are closing their doors. National Express and Megabus have ceased all operations and Hull Trains has announced it will stop running. A global pandemic shows how little protection an open access train operator has compared to their franchised equivalents, that have effectively been underwritten by the DfT. Many local coach operators have attempted to maintain school transport for the very few children that now require them, but I've now noticed virtually all of them withdrawing these offerings. Brylaine Travel has suspended all services on Saturdays, too and rather impressively CallConnect is offering its demand-responsive services free of use to prevent the use of cash.

Tuesday 7 April

Both my daughter and I feel better today and fortuitously my son has not been unwell. Had he been a few years older my convalescence could have been improved by him making me unlimited cups of tea. I've attempted some work on the forthcoming LEYTR and have decided not to include a photo feature in it as offerings from our varied membership base have been low on the ground as they rightly heed government advice to avoid all but essential journeys. It would certainly be irresponsible to make specific journeys to capture photos of local transport and I've seen people rightly criticised for doing something similar when positing images online. The suspension of the photo feature does mean that I can include an additional four pages of text and has fortuitously enabled me to clear some of my backlog. The partner of a regular contributor was hospitalised with Coronavirus over the weekend and is home now. He also has contracted the virus too but to a lesser extent. He detailed their long road to recovery - potentially taking months, rather than weeks. Today also marks the halfway point of my self-isolation.

Friday 10 April - Good Friday

I'm almost ready to go with the LEYTR though I woke in the night in a cold sweat as I'd not considered Coronavirus's effect on the print industry. Would our printer even be trading at the minute? I fired off an email to them and even offered a solution to the collection of the magazines as I doubt our usual process of collecting them in person would be considered an essential journey. What concerned me the most was the cessation of printed magazines by two bus/coach titles - RouteOne and CBW. Both have an online presence and both promised to resume their printed weekly offerings once they were able to do so. I'm firmly in the 'print is best' camp. I'm sure there is a place in society for 'e-subscriptions' for people to view on an electronic device only, though they're not for me, not at all.

Sunday 12 April - Easter Sunday

I find myself at the out-of-hours GP unit at Grantham Hospital today, following a very rough night with my daughter who has developed a large lump on the side of her neck and was being sick moments after consuming anything - even squash. Our trip out of the house did cut short our self-isolation, though NHS 111 said this was more important. Of course on most Sundays it is perfectly possible to drive from Bourne to Grantham without seeing any public transport at all (provided you don't catch sight of the hourly Delaine service to Peterborough or see from afar a train powering along the ECML in the Corby Glen area). Today was no different. My daughter was diagnosed as having tonsillitis and it was the doctor's view that the large lump on the side of her neck was a cluster of glands that had swollen as a consequence. Grantham Hospital was a fortress and my daughter and I were required to don face masks and gloves before being allowed in. The set-up within the unit was very professional and the nurse manning the desk seemed very capable. To my surprise, we were the only ones there - an up side to Coronavirus being that fewer people are venturing out of their homes and so they are injuring themselves less. The nearest pharmacy to dispense the antibiotics she was prescribed was in Sleaford. We saw an EMR Class 156 departing Sleaford station bound for Skegness and it looked as though no-one other than the train crew was on board.

Tuesday 14 April 

Our final day of self-isolation, which is marred with my daughter's (non-Coronavirus) ill health. Positive news came in an email from the printer we use to produce the LEYTR, which said they continued to trade albeit with reduced staff. I was able to email the finalised version and they were willing to deliver the completed magazines to a mutual location so that they can be distributed. The edition has a good balance of bus/train news/articles and covers both sides of the Humber in equal measure - something I always strive to do. Strangely, I'm looking forward to visiting the supermarkets tomorrow, even though I've learned that since my self-isolation various queuing systems have been introduced to prevent too much social contact. 

Wednesday 15 April

Self-isolation is over! My daughter is still ill. There's been no improvement so I called our local GP who is changing her antibiotics. Rather surprisingly, he didn't want to see her at the practice. It is understandable that practices take steps to protect GPs and others who work there, but my daughter now has no temperature and no persistent dry cough and had been seen by a GP three days ago. It was because she'd been seen that he felt there was no pressing need to see her again. I did muse on how many sick patients a typical GP now comes into contact with at their practice on a daily basis compared with how many passengers a typical transport key worker would see. I was able to go shopping for the first time in ages and headed to Spalding on a route that crosses the former Spalding & Bourne Railway (opened 1866) on a couple of locations - most notably at the former Counter Drain station, serving the hamlet of Tongue End around a mile down the road. The station closed in 1959 and other than a house that looks very railwayesque, the only items that show that a railway line once crossed the road here is a small bridge across a dyke and a solitary white railway gate.

Friday 17 April

The LEYTR magazines have been produced in record time (another unintended consequence of Coronavirus?) and will be posted out on Monday. Their production is a week behind what would be normal, though sadly these are not normal times. My daughter's new antibiotics seem to have done the trick as she's almost back to her normal self and doesn't spend the days laid on the sofa with her quilt, drifting to sleep on and off. Further service reductions have been introduced by the two major operators in the LEYTR area - Stagecoach and East Yorkshire - to reflect the continued drop in use. It's also worth noting the closure of Gainsborough depot by Stagecoach and all East Yorkshire depots bar Hull and Scarborough. So far as Gainsborough is concerned, this has made for interesting photos uploaded, specifically of a Humber FastCat-liveried MAN working town service 2. It's interesting to note that all recent photo uploads to social media come with a disclaimer that the image was taken 'while making an essential journey to the shops' or something similar. Those driving the buses or working the trains are offering unrivalled photos at present, too, and it's great to see these images being shared.

Saturday 18 April

Yesterday I downloaded an app to my iPhone called Photomyne, which enables me to photograph my 6x4 glossy GCT photo collection and for these to be 'converted' seamlessly into digital files that I can share. I've seen others upload images of times past to social media in a bid to maintain morale during these unprecedented times, and since my GCT photo archive from the late 1980s contains images mostly taken by myself and never shared, I hope to offer many never-before-seen images. I uploaded three to the Grimsby Cleethorpes Transport (pre-Stagecoach) Facebook group (one is not my copyright). I've also been through and photographed some more recent RoadCar photos (pre-Stagecoach - just) that I've begun sharing to the Lincolnshire Road Car Facebook group (not to be confused with the Lincolnshire Road Car Pre-Deregulation Facebook group). The Photomyne app is free to download but there's an annual fee of £29.99 or monthly fee of £8.99 to continue using it after a three-day 'free' trial; therefore I spent hours snapping my collection yesterday and have today gone into my iTunes account and cancelled the subscription that you have to set-up, so that no money is taken. That said, if you do have thousands of photos you want to seamlessly scan and store (possibly with a view to upload in due course), the £8.99 monthly fee seems to be a decent offer; however, you'll be given the impression that the annual £29.99 fee is the only one that is on offer - agree to it then go into your Subscriptions settings where you can change your subscription to the £8.99 monthly fee.


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