This has been a rough year for the railways and it is little wonder that Rail magazine constantly bangs on about getting passengers back. The safety of travel by train is espoused by various authorities and my own experiences during the past summer do little to contradict this but there is a flaw in the argument that safe travel by train is enough to bring back paying passengers.
The real issue for me is actually having somewhere safe to go. After all, many cities have been blighted by COVID during the last few months and that is likely to remain the case during the coming months too. Vaccination is ongoing but will take time to take effect, assuming that the virus does not evolve faster than the rollout. Going to rural areas could be an option and I certainly enjoy exploring hill country but those living in such places are understandably nervous about incursions from elsewhere.
The same problem affects bus services and there is the added issue of travel restrictions applying to areas such that you cannot go into or out of them. With a new strain of virus proving to be more infectious, that is not so likely to change for a good part of 2021 if not after that.
In tandem with all of this, many office workers have been developing a taste for working from home so will commuting be reduced in the future? It is a consideration being pondered by railway commentators but we have to get that far first. Thinking that far ahead when progress appears slow seems premature.
For now though, the government has stepped in with financial support for rail and bus services for those who need them. For rail services, that gets us into 2022 and looks sensibly farsighted while funding for bus services could do with extending.
To finish, 2020 felt a long year and signs are that 2021 may not be so different. Hope is facing a stern test so we need to find any kind of positivity that we kine so it can be relished. The ongoing pandemic looks like a long haul right now.