Our future is becoming clearer now

Thursday, 16th June

Oxford Street Bus_photo MAURIZIO_PESCE

‘Rush hours are nowhere near reaching levels they were at before the pandemic. And this, surely, is a good thing’

• AS the pandemic recedes, we are getting a clearer picture of what the future could hold for the everyday lives of our neighbourhoods.

It seems fairly evident that traffic levels have declined substantially. Rush hours are nowhere near reaching levels they were at before the pandemic. And this, surely, is a good thing. Likewise our Underground trains seem less crowded, another welcome development.

The buses are the exception to this. The diminution in their use is not that noticeable. But, of course, Boris Johnson’s cuts double act with Sadiq Khan would no doubt ensure that we’ll still be like sardines or in long queues where bus travel is concerned.

All of this comes at a price, however. Recent exhortations to coerce the working from home brigade back to the office have been embellished with all kinds of hollow sounding concerns about collegiate working and sparking creativity off each other in office settings.

But I feel the reality is that the calls to return were motivated by understandable fears for businesses that fed and watered the commuting hordes – now so reluctant to stop working from home.

The call back to the office can only have limited success anyway. Many of the businesses that relied on a daily tide of workers will, sadly for them and those who work for them, go to the wall.

However, many changes forced on us by the pandemic served to show that the way we lived before was often very wasteful and ineffective. Surely it is best that we embrace these changes.

If working from home means fewer cars on the road and less misery on public transport systems, let’s work from home. Those unfortunately thrown out of jobs can surely be accommodated with other jobs that are useful.

It’s always been strange that while there are plenty of people available to cold-call us about accidents we had but were somebody else’s fault, there aren’t enough people available to staff our health services.

Our current plight is complicated by the prospect of the cost of living crisis. This could force many into doing without essentials, but also squeeze people into discontinuing consumption of goods and services they discover they didn’t really need at all. Maybe we don’t need 15 different types of coffee in three sizes – large, giant and family.

Times are bad and we must look after the most vulnerable in our community. But there has never been a better time to reflect on how we live and assess how it could be so much improved.

In some ways it is similar to that period at the end of the Second World War which 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 political system that could offer them.


Related Articles