Category Archives: Rail

The rail service in Woodbridge

Covid – when should we wear masks?

Two older people wearing medical facemasks and giving a victory signFinally, at long last, masks will be MANDATORY on UK public transport from 15 June. Far too late of course – as is to be expected from this craven, risk-averse, milquetoast, chumocratic apology for a government – but hoo-blinking-ray anyway.

Masks help reduce covid transmission and so protect not only passengers but drivers.

33 bus drivers have died in London to date.

Why has this diktat taken so long?  Well, you see, “masks undermine social distancing. Everyone knows that!” But everyone also knows that when the wind changes, your face stays that way. And eating crusts makes your hair curl.

Things everyone knows are not always true.

This week I challenged Suffolk’s Director of Public Health, Stuart Keeble, to supply the scientific evidence for the whole “masks undermine social distancing” story – which has been peddled in the UK at all levels. I called it an “urban myth”. He denied this. But has yet to come back to me with any scientific evidence whatsoever.

On the other side, Dr Greenhalgh – an Oxford Professor of Primary Care and passionate advocate of  mask-wearing to reduce community transmission – has recently published this peer reviewed paper analysing the evidence behind counter arguments and shows it to be (at best) weak:  Face coverings for the public: Laying straw men to rest //

When I blogged in March (yes, you heard it, MARCH) on how to make your own masks– stating clearly they helped reduce transmission rather than infection and were particularly useful in taking pressure off scanty PPE supplies (and that the pattern was approved by local medics) – o lord, what a fuss there was from local keyboard experts! (A lot of the arguments that were made about this – now far from- controversial idea, are addressed and put to bed in Dr Greenhalgh’s paper.)

Yet it turns out from Suffolk’s latest figures on covid infection in care homes, that the virus must have come in via people from outside: visitors, deliveries, staff.  Care homes were briefed fully on infection control. Transmission was their Achilles heel. Why were they, why were we not alerted to the benefits of wearing masks? The course of the pandemic might have run differently.

Graph showing correlation between mask wearing and infection rates in 4 countries: highest infection per day no masks- UK. Lowest infection and a tradition of masks, Taiwan

Here is an interesting table showing the path of infection in 4 countries – and when each made mask-wearing compulsory. Imagine if everybody in the UK had started wearing facemasks on the day I had blogged – instead of passing on remarks about incorrect usage (really, how hard is it to cover your nose and mouth?),  how they reduced social distancing and so on.

Imagine, if instead of criticising Asia, we in the UK had taken a steer from them, and implemented face covering for all as well as hand washing and social distancing. I would then have not have been receiving emergency masks from anxious friends in China to give to all of us poor Suffolk people they saw as vulnerable and unprotected.Facemasks


Swallows to return to Woodbridge Station

Wonderful news! After I put our residents’ concerns about the destruction of swallow nesting at Woodbridge station to Greater Anglia, the company listened and took the matter seriously.

And on March 19 they installed two RSPB clay swallow boxes at the very places where the swallows have traditionally nested.

Thank you, Greater Anglia! Let us hope our soaring summer friends will be back with us next month!

Greater Anglia: banning Martins and Swallows from Woodbridge station

Substance of my letter to Jamie Burles,  Managing Director, Greater Anglia, 20 Feb

I’m writing to you in great concern in your role as Greater Anglia’s Managing Director, having been forwarded worrying  correspondence from a constituent.

As you will see, he wrote to Greater Anglia about your recent installation of anti-bird wires at the station, and reminded Greater Anglia of the damage this would do to the families of hirondelles (swallows/swifts/martins) who nest at the Woodbridge station. These are not a huge number, but the birds return to their nesting sites year after year.

My constituent offered to point out the places where the wires could be removed in order that these wonderful, and increasingly endangered birds could continue their blameless existence

Disappointingly, his offer was met  with  a response from customer services at  Greater Anglia, that was terse, not to say rude and extraordinarily authoritarian in tone. It was also extremely ignorant of the habits of the birds in question:

The anti-bird wires have been placed at the station to prevent damage to the station and will not be removed.
I do hope that house martins find more suitable nesting sites and I am sorry that you will not get to see them with their chicks this year.

Mr Burles – perhaps Greater Anglia might bear in mind that Woodbridge Station has been in place since 1859!  I would imagine that hirondelles have been nesting here all this time (they return to the same nesting places year after year). They have done no damage in the 160 years the station has been opened. Why on earth should Greater Anglia claim they do so now? And why should Greater Anglia claim other sites as being ‘more suitable’?  For whom?

As all long-term residents of the town are aware, these birds are one of the delights of Woodbridge station.  They make us heart-soaringly happy  every spring and summer whatever the weather. Their arrival is a long-anticipated tradition.

Very unfortunately Greater Anglia repainted the station ceiling in 2017 at seemingly the moment the swallows/martins were about to nest. In consequence last season’s hirondelle nests vanished and the regular commuters of Woodbridge (of whom I am one) lost the joy of watching the little families appear.  This would seem to be in contravention to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

When GA  wrote “I am sorry that you will not get to see them with their chicks this year” you seem unaware that Greater Anglia was instrumental in this happening last year too!

Because the swift-flying, joyous swallows and martins were displaced, pigeons moved in to Woodbridge station last summer – and they do cause damage. This is presumably why Greater Anglia has suddenly installed bird wires. Talk about unintended consequences.

If the swallows and martins were allowed to nest again in their traditional sites I would imagine the pigeons would vanish. They never nested at the station before.

Can I just add that this matter is time-sensitive. Hirondelles are summer visitors.These amazing – and increasingly endangered – little birds are likely to be already on the wing, making their long journey back from Africa to nest at our station sometime in March.

Bearing this in mind, and knowing that Greater Anglia  did not have the full details when you first wrote to my constituent, I am writing to you, as Managing Director,  in the hope that Greater Anglia will change its mind and remove the bird wires, if only from around the hirondelle nesting sites in the corners of Woodbridge station. Not that they seem effective in stopping the pigeons from nesting.

Doing so would  not only immeasurably improve quality of life (for both the hirondelles and the commuters who watch them), it would also place Greater Anglia in a very good light, as a company that is suitably responsive to issues that are very important to local people.