Life in the time of Coronavirus: a train driver’s view

Wednesday, 17 June 2020
Behind the Scenes

A picture of Andy Aguda.

Andy Aguda has been driving trains in East Anglia for the past four years.

He drives trains between London and Colchester, Clacton, Ipswich, Harwich and Braintree, with shifts starting as early as 4am and finishing as late as 2.30am.

But over the past few months, as the country was under lockdown, the travel landscape has changed.

"When I used to drive a train alongside the A12 the traffic would often be queuing, then at the start of lockdown it went so quiet," Andy said. "There has been a bit of a difference in getting to and from work. The roads are so much quieter with so few people about. But being used to early starts or late finishes that in itself is not out of the ordinary.  The start of a shift is quite normal – I still see and talk to other colleagues, but when I start driving a train I see there are far fewer people travelling on the trains and I am reminded of what we are going through.

"I enjoy driving the early trains up to London because you pick up so many people on your way. It is really satisfying when you get to London and open the doors and the platform fills up. It’s amazing to see how many people were on board. When lockdown was first in place, I would open the doors and the platforms would remain almost empty.

"When I get to Liverpool Street, I open the cab door and some people do look up and smile and say thank you. I have also noticed the public footpaths we have in the Essex and Suffolk countryside. You see so many families out together enjoying walks and they wave when they see my train. It’s great to see kids’ faces light up when I wave back and it really uplifts me knowing I have made their day."

Since the start of the Coronavirus outbreak, Greater Anglia has stepped up its cleaning regimes, focusing on high-touch area such as doors, buttons and poles. The company has also invested in fogging guns to disinfect trains.

"I’ve been washing hands more and carrying hand sanitiser. Cabs are cleaned regularly and we wipe over the controls," Andy said.

He joined Greater Anglia following a 13-year career as a police constable.

"I am grateful to go into work and keep some sort of routine. I will be pleased to return to normal because the loneliness is kicking in. Although I am used to being alone in the cab, there is usually hustle and bustle around you. It was very quiet at the start of lockdown.

"It used to be mainly NHS workers, emergency services and other key workers using the trains, but it has got busier now. I have noticed recently construction workers returning to work. We are still within capacity on trains, so people can travel safely and ensure social distancing.

"It is so important that we have been able to provide a service to the NHS and emergency services workers. We are recognised and praised as key workers too, but we are not in the same boat as them. I get adequate rest between shifts and I get to spend quality time with my wife and children. The NHS and emergency services workers will have been working long tiring shifts in very difficult conditions and it is their sacrifice and dedication that has got us to where we are now. I am so pleased we are able to support them."

Rail passengers are advised that they must wear face coverings on Greater Anglia’s stations and trains, after the Government made their use mandatory for public transport users, from Monday 15 June onwards.

Current Government advice is to avoid public transport and to only travel by train if you need to and you cannot travel another way, in which case you must wear a face covering.

Children under the age of 11 and people with a disability or illness which means they cannot wear a face covering are exempt from wearing them when travelling by train.

Greater Anglia staff are encouraging customers to wear face coverings – which could be a scarf or bandanna or a face mask - to comply with the new regulations. Wearing face coverings can also help to reduce the spread of Covid-19.

Greater Anglia has also introduced a wide range of measures to make it easier for customers to maintain social distancing at stations and on trains.