Has COVID killed commuting?

Over 25 years ago, I moved to Loughton, east of London.

It was a town that you could commute from, being on the Central Line. As it was near the end of the line, I always got a seat in the morning and in the evening, once it had emptied a bit.

It’s all changed today. The city has expanded east, into Canary Wharf. The local light industry has gone, housing has displaced it and anything else it can. Now it’s a commuter town.

The trains are always packed. It’s standing all the way, both ways. Not just in rush hour.

In the summer, the trains get so hot that you wouldn’t be allowed to transport cattle in them.

In the winter they are ‘vectors for infection’, fetid petri dishes of colds and illnesses.

I used to appreciate the commute as a liminal space for me, a chance to read and relax. Time to get my ‘work head’ on in the morning, and then to decompress on the way home.

But these days, that separation of work and home just isn’t possible in such a stressful environment. It’s just another click on the daily ratchet of pressure and anxiety.

We would never have created what the commute has become. Now we have a choice to end it.

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