The Anonymous Widower

The Flexible Train For A Pandemic

Anybody, who believes that COVID-19  will be the last pandemic is an idiot!

The virus has shown, those with evil intentions to take over the world, that a pandemic, started by a weaponised virus, whether natural or man-made, can be a useful tool in your arsenal.

We must prepare for the next pandemic.

So how will we travel by train?

Current Train Interiors And The Need To Social Distance

The need to social distance will remain paramount and some of our current train interiors are better than others for passengers to remain two metres apart.

These are some typical UK train interiors.

Typical London Overground Interior

These pictures show a typical London Overground interior on their Class 378 trains and Class 710 trains.

Distancing at two-metres will reduce the capacity dramatically, but with wide doors and common sense, this layout could allow social distancing to work.

Siemens Desiro City Suburban Interior

These pictures show the interior of the two Siemens Desiro City fleets; Thameslink‘s Class 700 trains, Great Northern‘s Class 717 trains and South Western Railway‘s Class 707 trains.

As with the London Overground layout, as the trains are fairly spacious with wide doors, social distancing could probably be made to work at reduced capacity.

Four Seats And A Table

These pictures show a selection of trains, where you have four seats around a table.

Trains include Greater Anglia’s Class 379 trains, Class 745 trains, Class 755 trains, and a selection of Class 800 trains, Class 377 trains from various operators and a superb reconditioned Class 150 train from Great Western Railway.

Could these be made to work, if there was only one person or self-isolating group living together at each set of four seats?

Designing For A Pandemic

These are my thoughts on various topics.

Seating Layouts


  • As the pictures show, maintaining social distancing will be difficult on some trains.
  • Could the number of seats in use, be determined by the avert level of the pandemic?
  • Could seats have lights on them to show their status?
  • Will companies insist on reservations?

As to the last point, some train companies are already doing this!



Will there be limits on the luggage you can take?

Entering And Leaving The Train

Would someone with a dangerous infectious disease be more likely to pass it on, when entering or leaving a train, through a narrow doorway?

I believe coaches with narrow single end doors make social distancing impossible.

  • Passengers get stuck in the bottleneck that these doors create.
  • Passengers are entering and leaving through the same crowded door.
  • Anybody in a wheelchair, pushing a child in a buggy or dragging a large suitcase, will make the bottleneck worse.

They are not fit for purpose in a post-COVID-19 world!

It might be possible to make the doors work using a traffic light system, which allowed passengers to leave, before any passengers were allowed to enter.

But any safe system, would be likely to increase dwell times in stations.

These pictures show the doors and entry and exit for Greater Anglia’s Class 745 and Class 755 trains.

These trains have been designed to be able to run London and Norwich services over a distance of more than a hundred miles, so the trains could be considered InterCity services in all but name.


  1. All doors are double and lead into a wide and spacious lobby.
  2. Entry and exit is level, as there is a gap filler between train and platform.
  3. Entry and exit in a wheelchair, pushing a buggy or wheeling a large suitcase doesn’t

Greater Anglia’s new trains would appear to be better in a post-COVID-19 world.

I also think, that these trains are better designed for the disabled, those with young children, and the elderly and just plain worn-out.

Finding A Seat

If you watch people entering a train, they often take forever to find their seat and sit down. Especially, if they’ve got a massive suitcase that won’t fit in the space provided.

Rules on boarding a train and how much luggage you can bring will be developed.


Will visiting the toilet still be allowed? Or will toilets even be removed?


I think a degree of flexibility must be built into the design.

I mentioned lights on seats to show which could be used, that could be lit up according to the threat level.


Travelling will get more complicated.





May 17, 2020 - Posted by | Health, Transport/Travel | , , , , , , ,


  1. LNER is now only allowing travellers with a reservation, presemably to avoid overcrowding and promote distancing (in 4 to a seat/airlibe seat modes).

    I can foresee that all intercity trains/coaches will move to this model, and could be a model for some rural branch line services (e.g. Greater Anglia), certainly outside peak.

    Some changes to core ATOC reservation system needed to allow groups to sit closer together (maybe table priority) and allow a slightly higher capacity for groups (who can sit together) vs. singletons (needing more spacing).

    Antiseptic wipes in toilets and at train doors

    Improvements to aircon desireable (inbound filtration and upping volume of air exchange towards Las Vegas casino levels…which have long used high volume air exchange to reduce player fatigue for financial gain).

    Comment by MilesT | May 17, 2020 | Reply

    • I saw LNER had done that!

      Comment by AnonW | May 17, 2020 | Reply

  2. Forgot to say…

    Better online (and ondevice) seat maps to promote rapid seat finding, and better in train signage (maybe seat top colour coding/icons..reservation could say RedStarWindow22 rather than just 22, using 8 primary colours and basic shapes…[trains to Oxbridge can use original/current “Only Connect” question icons 🙂 ]

    Ideally dynamic airline style seat selection at time of reservation ( and reservations available up to 15 mins before journey)

    Comment by MilesT | May 17, 2020 | Reply

  3. While the London Overground layout produces plenty of space you still have passengers sitting next to each other so how safe is it sitting next to someone or will seats need being blocked off ?

    While it seems Greater Anglia has played a blinder with its new trains we have the large number of new inter city trains that GWR and ECML have introduced which seem to have traditional single door entry with need to walk through carriage!

    We then have the complex issues of platforms which often have a lack of width and restricted entry vis single staircases. While on London’s underground you have stations that still have narrow island platforms with a single staircase often at the end of the platform again used by passengers going both ways , it might need to be decided whether some stations like those on southern end of Northern Line at Clapham may have to remain closed for now.

    On the positive side covid19 appears to be mainly an elderly persons disease with it said that someone under 60 was more likely to die of drowning than Covid19!

    Questions re immunity and many people having been had covid19 with no affect still have to be proved and that’s where testing comes in .

    In the end people will have to decide whether to live with covid19 just like other diseases and viruses or remain indoors where most accidents happen!.

    Comment by Melvyn | May 17, 2020 | Reply

    • I have done work in the past analysing those that turn up in A & E. The analysis showed there was a surprising number of elderly turning up, after falling down stairs without handrails. Often ladies living alone!

      That’s why I put a proper rail on my stairs.

      But I tripped over a mat and ended in hospital, in my bedroom!

      Comment by AnonW | May 17, 2020 | Reply

  4. Life is a balance of ducking and diving between known hazards. The one’s you least expect get you. I have had 170 mph impacts on the race track, proper seat belts and roll cage. Gone down the A14 upside down towing a car on a trailer with blown tyres pushing downhill. The car, a SAAB 9000, blew all the airbags, seat belt pretentioners, hit a bridge, and the trailer and car went over the top. I walked away without a scratch, just a headache. So, what is acceptable risk? I think a large percentage of the population have had it as a nasty case of flu in the last two years. Nobody made a fuss in 1916, when the government wiped out 56000 men in two hours, so why make a fuss now? The global governments will come out with ever more draconian laws designed to keep people under control using fear of the unknown. The Catholic Church was a master of controlling fear.

    Comment by jagracer | May 17, 2020 | Reply

    • “a large percentage of the population have had it as a nasty case of flu”

      Perhaps, but we now know that the government’s dithery reaction to the arrival of Covid-19 was due to it assuming it would be dealing with “a nasty flu”. For thousands of people in the UK, Covid-19 is very far from that. For some people its effects are more akin to those of dengue fever or chikungunya. Evidence suggests that Covid-19 can trigger the very painful and debilitating Guillain-Barre disease and, in children, Kawasaki Disease. One side effect is to thicken the blood, which of course increases the likelihood of stroke and heart attack, and it can also lead to kidney failure.

      Failing to take Covid-19 seriously is precisely what got us into this situation in the first place. Part of that was an airy assumption that those with “underlying health conditions” (an estimated 15% of the population!) and the elderly are disposable. For everyone else – ie the valued and useful part of the population, under 60 and in perfect health – it would mean no more than a week-long stay at home with an annoying cough and a fever, we were told. And, the argument went, seasonal flu kills lots of people anyway, so why worry?

      Leaving aside the sheer callousness of these assumptions and the flawed basis on which they were made, it’s all very well making devil-may-care risk assessments when they affect only your own health and well-being. But that’s not the way a virus works. One person’s take-it-or-leave-it-approach to a virus may quite easily end up being someone else’s death sentence. Even if the person who’s caught the disease from you doesn’t end up paying with their life, they may still have to endure weeks of agonising physical pain and mental disorder (it can have severe neurological effects too). We know this from the testimony of fit people in their 30s who have ‘survived’ Covid-19. It’s too early to know whether some of the damage will be long-term or life-shortening.

      So that’s why governments have introduced Draconian laws, albeit ineptly and tardily in the UK. It’s for exactly the same reason that there are speed limits on the roads – not to protect you, but to protect others from you. (I don’t mean you personally, of course.)

      I have no patience with conspiracy theories about governments using the disease to control people by using “the fear of the unknown”. Covid-19 IS an unknown; that’s a fact. It’s a disease that a sane person would be wary of, at the very least, in exactly the same way I’d be cautious about approaching a tiger or (more mundanely) crossing the tracks of a high-speed railway line.

      The reason you survived high-speed impacts on the race track and up-ending your car on the A14 is because proper precautions had been taken beforehand – chiefly by the cars’ designers. It wasn’t by chance you survived, but by design.

      Peace, freedom etc are secured not by recklessness but by (as the phrase has it) “eternal vigilance”. And, I might add, proper forethought and preparation.

      Comment by Stephen Spark | May 18, 2020 | Reply

      • Around 1975, I was asked by a consultant, if I could build him a mathematical model of a possible pandemic. He was working for a large drug company and he was trying to find out, what would happen, if a nasty pandemic should arrive in the UK. The aim, if the answers were deadly was to get money from the government to research a new drug to fight various pandemics.

        I never found out, if the drug company got their money, but I got a few pieces of silver, for doing what I felt was my best efforts.

        But some of the test results we produced and printed on a teletype frightened the life out of me.

        Sadly, they have been lost in the intervening years!

        That was why, I locked down early and will be one of the first in the queue when the vaccine gets approved.

        Comment by AnonW | May 18, 2020

  5. Such a great read !!!

    Comment by R. | May 17, 2020 | Reply

  6. Thanks!

    Comment by AnonW | May 17, 2020 | Reply

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