“Rush hours are nowhere near the levels they were before the pandemic. And that, surely, is a good thing’
• AS the pandemic recedes, we get a clearer picture of what the future may hold for daily life in our neighborhoods.
It seems pretty obvious that traffic levels have dropped significantly. Rush hours are nowhere near the levels they were before the pandemic. And that, of course, is a good thing. Likewise, our subway trains seem less crowded, another welcome development.
Buses are the exception to this. The decrease in their use is not so noticeable. But, of course, Boris Johnson’s double act with Sadiq Khan would undoubtedly ensure that we will always be either sardines or in long queues when it comes to bus travel.
All of this, however, comes at a price. Recent urgings to force the work-from-home brigade back into the office have been peppered with all sorts of hollow concerns about collegial work and stimulating each other’s creativity in office environments.
But I think the reality is that the calls to return were driven by understandable fears for the businesses that fed and watered the hordes of commuters – now so reluctant to stop working from home.
Calling back to the office can only have limited success anyway. Many businesses that relied on a daily wave of workers are, unfortunately for them and those who work for them, going bankrupt.
However, many changes imposed by the pandemic have shown that the way we lived before was often very unnecessary and inefficient. It is certainly preferable that we adopt these changes.
If working from home means fewer cars on the road and less misery on public transport, let’s work from home. Those who are unfortunately made redundant can surely be accommodated with other useful jobs.
It’s always been odd that while there are plenty of people available to cold call us about accidents we’ve had but were someone else’s fault, there’s no enough people available to staff our health services.
Our current situation is complicated by the prospect of the cost of living crisis. It could force many to go without the essentials, but also cause people to cut off the consumption of goods and services that they find they don’t really need at all. Maybe we don’t need 15 different types of coffee in three sizes: large, jumbo and family.
Times are tough and we need to take care of the most vulnerable in our community. But there’s never been a better time to reflect on the way we live and assess how it could be so much better.
In some ways it resembles that period at the end of World War II that resulted in our National Health Service and a welfare state.
A 21st century Beveridge report, a national plan for homes for all, are among the things we need. If only there was a political system that could offer them.
E WILLIAMS, WC1