The Anonymous Widower

Oxford And Cambridge Compared On COVID-19

In Is There A Link Between Historic Coal Mining And COVID-19?, I mentioned this article in The Times, which is entitled Pressure To Free London From Lockdown As Cases Fall.

The article gives an interactive table, which is entitled Number Of Cases By Area.

Three figures are given.

  1. Registered cases
  2. Cases per 100,000 of the population.
  3. Cases in the last two weeks.

These figures are for areas around Oxford.

  • Oxford – 615, 399, 90
  • South Oxfordshire – 358, 255, 36
  • West Oxfordshire – 324, 295, 50

And these figures are for areas around Cambridge

  • Cambridge – 222, 177, 20
  • South Cambridgeshire – 206, 131, 10
  • East Cambridgeshire – 111, 124, 12
  • West Suffolk – 205, 115, 18

So why are COVID-19  cases in Cambridge so much lower than Oxford?

Consider.

  • Both cities and surrounding counties have a similar character.
  • Both have well-respected hospitals, medicals schools and medical research.
  • Air pollution appears to be low in both areas.
  • Both cities probably have a similar ethynic mix and large student populations.

As I used to live near Cambridge, I have my own mad personal theory.

Addenbrooke’s Hospital

I have used several hospitals in my life, but only two changed my life totally.

  • I had my vasectomy in the old Hackney Hospital.
  • Addenbrooke’s, who with a simple blood test decided I was probably coeliac.

So perhaps, I’m biased.

But consider these possible facts.

  • My coeliac consultant at Addenbrooke’s told me, that he had more patients with the disease than any other in the UK.
  • The manager at Carluccio’s in Cambridge, told me that they sold more gluten-free food, than any other restaurant in the group.
  • In 1997, I was diagnosed fast, because Addenbrooke’s were using a new genetic test. I was later checked using an endoscopy.

Could it be that someone at Addenbrooke’s had decided they wanted to find all the coeliacs in and around Cambridge?

What would be the effects of diagnosing as many coeliacs as you could find in an area?

  • A doctor of my acquaintance talked of coeliac disease as the many-headed hydra, as it led to so many other medical problems. So extra diagnosed coeliacs might improve health statistics in an area.
  • Personally, I have said good-bye to migraines, nail-biting and lots of joint pains, after going gluten-free.
  • I also haven’t had a serious dose of flu since diagnosis. Since 2005, I’ve probably had the flu jab.
  • Joe West at Nottingham University, has shown that coeliacs on a gluten-free diet have lower cancer rates than the general population.

Consider.

  • Immunotherapy is a medical technique, where the patient’s immune system is activated or suppressed to help them fight a disease.
  • Coeliac disease is an autoimmune disease, where gluten causes damage to the gut.

So could coeliacs on a gluten-free diet have a more powerful immune system?

Undiagnosed Coeliacs

Coeliac disease is genetic, with mine coming from an Ashkenazi Jewish ancestor from Konigsberg in the Baltic.

  • Other roots of coeliac disease are Irish, Italian and black people, who have slaves as ancestors.
  • There was no test for coeliac disease in children until 1960.
  • There was no genetic test for coeliac disease until the late 1990s.
  • Research has shown that coeliacs are at least 1-in-100 of the UK population, but could be higher.

If coeliacs on a gluten-free diet have a good immune system, do undiagnosed coeliacs have a poorer one?

Oxford And Cambridge Compared

Is the large number of diagnosed coeliacs around Cambridge, the reason the area has a lower COVID-19 rate than Oxford?

Conclusion

What do I know?

I’m just a mad engineer and mathematician with coeliac disease.

 

 

May 23, 2020 Posted by | Health | , , , | Leave a comment

Thoughts On Coeliacs And Covid-19 In Cambridgeshire

I was diagnosed as a coeliac by Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge.

  • One of the consultants there told me, that they had a very high number of coeliacs on the books and the number was one of the highest in the country.
  • I also used to eat in Carluccios in the centre of Cambridge and the manager once told me that they did an Annual Dinner for the local branch of Coeliac UK.
  • He also told me, that they had the highest gluten-free sales in the group.

I think it is fairly likely that Cambridge has a lot of diagnosed coeliacs.

But it is not a place with health problems, that jump out of the pages of the tabloids.

My theory is that because Cambridge does a lot of gastroenterology research, they have a good rate in finding coeliacs.

So how is Cambridgeshire doing in the COVID-19 pandemic?

In Five Eastern Counties, I said this about COVID-19 in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, where a lot of patients go to Addenbrooke’s.

  • Cambridgeshire – 673 of 852,523 or 0.08%
  • Suffolk – 936 of 768,556 or 0.12%

Both seem to be low. How do they compare to Oxfordshire?

  • Oxfordshire – 1515 of 887, 564 or 0.17%

I wouldn’t have thought that Oxfordshire would have a rate twice that of Cambridgeshire!

  • The counties are similar in population.
  • Both have proportions of industry, farming and academia
  • The cities of Oxford and Cambridge are similar in character

Could it be that Addenbrooke’s has diagnosed most of the coeliacs in Cambridgeshire?

I’m no medical expert, but someone should look at it!

 

April 30, 2020 Posted by | Health | , , , , | Leave a comment

Consultation On The Cambridge Autonomous Metro

Issue 900 of Rail Magazine has an article called Have Your Say On Plans For Cambridge Metro Network.

These are the introductory paragraphs.

The Cambridge and Peterborough Combined Authority has launched a public consultation into outline plans for the Cambridge Autonomous Metro (CAM)

Under current proposals the CAM network would comprise a tunnelled section beneath Cambridge city centre, and four regional routes, radiating out towards St. Neots, Alconbury, Mildenhall and Haverhill.

This is a map clipped from the proposals.

Note.

Sections shown in green are tunnelled.

Sections shown in blue are on the surface.

Some sections would appear to reuse parts of the Cambridgeshire Guided Busway.

These are a few of my thoughts.

Rolling Stock

This picture from the consultation, shows possible rolling stock.

It could be a version of Van Hool’s ExquiCity BRT tram-bus, which is used is Belfast, Geneva, Metz and Parma – To name just four!

A hydrogen-powered version has also recently been introduced in Pau in France.

Could this be the version, that will be preferred for Cambridge?

  • It would be carbon and pollution free.
  • It could use exclusively green hydrogen, created from renewable electricity. Pau uses a hydrogen-generation system from ITM Power.
  • Would hydrogen-power encourage passengers to use the system?
  • It might borrow ideas from the Glider system in Belfast, which is diesel-electric powered.
  • Each Belfast Glider vehicle can hold 105 passengers.

A hydrogen-powered system would surely be ideal for working in the tunnels under Cambridge.

Tunnels

This article on the BBC is entitled Cambridge Metro: Engineer Says Underground Will Work.

In the article, Professor John Miles of Cambridge University says.

Britain was a world leader in boring small tunnels

It will be tight in the cramped city, but it should be possible.

Conclusion

Oxford will want one!

 

 

 

March 9, 2020 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Do Tourists To The UK Get Bad Advice On How To Use The Trains?

I travelled out to Oxford with a Chinese family from Hong Kong.

  • They were going to Oxford and home via Bicester Village.
  • They had actually flown into Edinburgh and after spwnding a few days in the City, they had taken the train to London, where they were spending another few days.
  • They were going to spend a day in Paris using Eurostar.

I think they had booked most of the tickets in Hong Kong before they left.

Knowing, what I know about ticketing, I would have organised things a bit differently.

Family And Friends Railcard

Purchase of a Family and Friends Railcard can give discounts for a one-off fee of £30.

To find out ticket orices with the Family and Friends Railcard web site.

Splitting A Journey

Most tickets other than Advance tickets allow the ticket holder to break a journey and then carry on later.

Because I am a coeliac and need gluten-free food, if I’m travelling a long distance, I may break the journey in say Birmingham, Glasgow, Leeds or Manchester, where I know I can get a quality gluten-free meal.

Tourists might want to break a journey between Edinburgh and London at York or Durham. This is possible on an Off Peak or Anytime ticket.

Tickets To Or From Stations Or Terminals

This ticket is a First Class Off Peak ticket between Manchester Stations and London Terminals, using Any Permitted Route.

I actually used it between Manchester Piccadilly and London Euston stations, but I could have used the ticket to go via Birmingham and then take Chiltern Railways from Birmingham to London Marylebone.

I think the general rule is if your ticket is marked Any Permitted Route and you keep going in the same direction, most routes are possible.

I always ask first, as some companies have different rules.

Visiting Bicester Village, Oxford And Windsor In One Day

The Hong Kong family I met were visiting Oxford and Bicester Village.

The best way to do this is to make sure you have a Day Return ticket  between London Terminals and Oxford, which is marked Any Permissible Route.

This will enable you to do the following three journeys.

  • London Paddington to Oxford.
  • Oxford to Bicester Village
  • Bicester Village to London Marylebone.

With a Railcard, this ticket will cost £18.10.

If you want to visit Windsor, this can be done on the outward journey, by splitting the trip at Slough. There is a branch line to Windsor at Slough worked by a shuttle train, which costs £1.90 for a return trip with a Railcard.

Ranger And Rover Tickets

Check these tickets out, if you’re staying in a town or city for a few days, as they may be a cheaper option.

The various Rovers and Rangers are detailed on this web page.

London

The Oyster card in London is dying.

  • But don’t worry, as the same prices are available by using a contactless bank card.
  • Contctless bank cards have the same daily and weekly cap as Oyster.
  • Contactless bank cards also work on the Underground, Overground, buses, Docklands Light Railway and the Emirates Air Line.
  • You can now use contactless bank cards at London City, Gatwick, Heathrow and Luton Airports.
  • If you want to use Gatwick and Heathrow Express services, these can be accessed using contactless ticketing too!

It appears there are very few complaints.

If you want to read a detailed analysis of London ticketing, read this page on the Finding The Universe web site.

Summing-Up

I shall be adding to this page, as it is only a rough general guide.

Use the Contact form to send any suggestions or questions.

 

 

 

July 18, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

An Outing To Oxford

I do a bit of research for a Californian lawyer, who helps small and medium-sized high-tech and other ventures setup in the UK.

He likes my opinion on the plans of start-ups and established businesses with respect to their location in the UK.

A couple of days ago, I received this e-mail.

John and his friends are funding a new venture being setup in Oxford.

The proposed CEO is a recently-widowed sixty-one year-old Canadian, who will be moving to London, where her daughter and family currently live.

Can you tell me, what it would be like commuting out from London to Oxford perhaps three days a week?

I should also say that at the moment, she is in need of having hip replacement surgery and proposes to have that in London, where she will be near to her family, during her stay.

She wouldn’t be able to walk a long distance.

This was my reply.

I can’t see much of a problem, as knowing John, the business could probably afford a few taxis and Crossrail will hopefully start running within the next eighteen months, making the London end straightforward.

Today, I went to Oxford leaving on the 09:50 train from Paddington and returning on the 13:01. Partly, to see if there were any pitfalls in the plan and also to have coffee and a snack with an old friend in the City, who helped me very much with the algorithms for Artemis.

These are my thoughts on the journey.

Trains

I travelled out in a comfortable nine-car Class 802 train. I’m not sure, whether it was the same on return or a shorter five-car train.

The outward journey was busier than the return journey, as I suspect that quite a few people live in London and work in Reading or Oxford.

But I did get a table both ways, so I was able to lay my copy of The Times flat and read it properly.

Cost

Off Peak Day Return tickets with a Senior Railcard, are  £18.30 in Standard Class and £49.25 in First Class.

As I have a Freedom Pass, I bought a Standard Class Off Peak Day Return between the Zone 6 boundary and Oxford for just £13.05 with my Senior Railcard.

I consider my ticket to be good value for a pensioner’s day out!

Journey Times And Frequency

Both trains took about an hour.

There are also two fast trains per hour, many of which are nine-car trains, with the remainder being five-car trains.

,Coffee, Tea And Snacks

I was surprised to see a trolley on the train.

But I don’t think much business was being done.

Oxford Station And Oxford City Centre

There were plenty of taxis at Oxford station, but I walked the distance both ways in under twenty minutes.

A friend, who has had an NHS double hip replacement, reckons she could walk it easily.

The biggest problem would appear to be the traffic and the narrow pavements

Note, that there are a few maps and some decent cafes and restaurants.

Conclusion

Travelling from London to Oxford is a very feasible daily commute and there are many worse ways of spending an hour on a train.

July 18, 2019 Posted by | Health, Transport | , | 2 Comments

Go-op Plans New Services From Summer 2020

The title of this article is the same as that of this article on Modern Railways.

This is the first sentence.

Community-owned rail operator Go-op Co-operative Ltd is seeking views on proposed new open access rail services in Somerset and Wiltshire. Services, which it hopes could start in summer 2020, would be operated by two refurbished Class 769 units working ‘a complex series of trips between Oxfordshire and Somerset’

I wrote about this before in An Ambitious Proposal For A New Train Service?

In the intervening three years, their plans have developed with more detail and a change to Class 769 trains.

I suggested the latter trains in my original post about Go-op, would be an idea.

Given the proposed route structure, they would be able to run at 100 mph on the electrified sections.

April 2, 2019 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Oxford’s Nimbys Are Getting Angry!

I keep finding articles on the web, like this article on the Oxford Times, which is entitled First Person: The Campaign To Keep Oxfordshire As It Is Now.

The title says it all.

It is all about opposition to the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway, which everybody wants in someone else’s back-yard.

My feelings are as follows.

  • A fully-electrified freight route should be built between Southampton and the West Coast Main Line, preferably with 25 KVAC overhead wiring.
  • The East West Railway should provide at least two fast trains per hour between Heathrow and Cambridge, via Reading, Oxford, Milton Keynes and Bedford.
  • I would accelerate the construction of the East West Railway.

Only as a last project, would I build the Oxford to Cambridge Expressway.

April 27, 2018 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

Would You Trust Your Weight On A Thirty Metre Long Plastic Bridge?

I might as I’m only just over sixty kilograms, but others might not!

But never underestimate the power of World Class engineering.

This article in The Construction Index is entitled Mabey and Arup Launch Plastic Modular Bridge.

The bridge has the following characteristics.

  • Built of metre long sections bolted together.
  • Up to thirty metre spans.
  • Installed without heavy machinery.
  • The bridge is 70% lighter than steel.
  • Low maintenance

The first bridge has been installed over the railway at a Site of Special Scientific Interest In Oxford.

I feel that Arup have designed this bridge system for purposes other than permanent structures.

This Google Map shows the centre of Tadcaster.

The road bridge that connects the two parts of the town was swept away by floodwater, as this BBC report, which details the destruction and rebuilding shows.

The new system couldn’t replace a road bridge, but there must be many instances around the world, after a an earthquake or floods, where the first thing that the rescuers need is a bridge to access a destroyed town or village.

The size and low weight of this bridge system, means it could be an early arrival.

There is more about the Pedesta bridge on Mabey’s web site.

 

March 18, 2017 Posted by | World | , , , | 3 Comments

An Understated Headline

This article on Business Insider is entitled A rail link between Oxford and Cambridge could help create a massive tech hub in the UK.

Could is not the word I’d use!

This page on the Government web site, contains a summary of the report, on which the article is based.

This is the second paragraph of the report.

The Commission’s central finding is that a lack of sufficient and suitable housing presents a fundamental risk to the success of this area. Without a joined-up plan for housing, jobs and infrastructure across the corridor, it will be left behind its international competitors. By providing the foundations for such a strategy, new east-west transport links present a once in a generation opportunity to secure the area’s future success.

As housing is so important to any development, this is crucial. The interim report makes a series of recommendations. This is the first.

  • Government should go ahead with East West Rail’s initial phase, a new link cutting journey times by more than half on the route from Oxford to Bedford and Milton Keynes, ensuring it is delivered before 2024; and it should invest in developing as soon as possible detailed plans for both the next phase of East West Rail (which would complete the link to Cambridge) and for a new Oxford-Cambridge Expressway.

So why is the Government farting about?

I blame the following.

  • The route via Bedford, contains lots of great-crested newts, in all the disused brick works.
  • The name; East West Rail Link, doesn’t have North in it.
  • Oxford doesn’t want a railway, that might encourage more visitors who would interfere with academic life.
  • The Sir Humphries of this world went to one of two universities; Oxford or Cambridge. They believe the two academic cities shouldn’t be connected and certainly not via Milton Keynes.
  • Addenbrooke’s hospital has objected, as it will bring lots of patients from the route to their world-class facilities.
  • It doesn’t go near Islington for the Labour Party or Edinburgh for the SNP.
  • Democracy

The Chinese would have built it last week or possibly yesterday, as it calls at Bicester Village!

 

 

 

November 19, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment

Chiltern Are Being Very Serious

This article in the Oxford Mail is entitled Train timetable released for new Oxford to London Marylebone route.

This is said.

The new timetable shows services running every 30 minutes, starting at 6.02am from Oxford and returning at 23.10pm.

The line will open on Monday, December 12.

That is certainly a passenger magnet of a timetable.

Looking at the timetable of both Chiltern and Great Western,

  • Both services run at least two trains per hour (tph) all day.
  • Both services run fairly late in the evening.
  • Great Western has the fastest trains, with some doing the journey in under an hour.

It will certainly be interesting to see how these two heavyweights slug it out.

But this is only Round 1One.

Consider.

  • In December 2018, Crossrail services between Paddington and Abbey Wood, via Liverpool Street and Canary Wharf start.
  • In May 2019, Crossrail services between Paddington and Shenfield start.
  • In December 2019, full Crossrail services start.
  • The East West Rail Link will open.
  • Oxford to Didcot should be electrified, allowing electric trains to Oxford.

These developments may appear to favour Great Western services over Chiltern, but I doubt that Chiltern will sit back and do nothing.

So what will Chiltern do?

Consider.

What is needed is a comprehensive plan for Chiltern’s future.

I can’t believe that they’re not working on one!

It could include the following.

  • Line improvements to reduce journey times between Marylebone and Oxford.
  • Improvements to allow the longest possible locomotive-hauled sets to run the route.
  • Development of West Hampstead Interchange.
  • Creation of a second terminus at Old Oak Common.

One or both of the last two options will have to be implemented, due to the lack of capacity at Marylebone and that station’s bad connectivity.

But what would I do?

The Southern end of the Chiltern Main Line needs better connectivity and the best way to do this would be to link it to Crossrail.

When Crossrail opens to Paddington in December 2018, the direct link I wrote about in Paddington Is Operational Again, will enable passengers taking the Bakerloo Line from Marylebone to change easily to Crossrail.

Together with line improvements and longer trains, this should handle the traffic for a few years.

It is interesting to look at a few journey times.

  • Chiltern has trains scheduled between Marylebone and High Wycombe in around 24-28 minutes.
  • Crossrail services from Paddington will take 27 minutes to Sloughbold step of creating a Crossrail .
  • Crossrail services from Paddington will take 45 minutes to Reading.

I would take the bold step of creating a Crossrail branch to High Wycombe.

  • High Wycombe would receive 4 tph from Crossrail.
  • There could be cross-platform interchange between Crossrail and Chiltern services to Oxford and Birmingham.
  • The Acton-Northolt Line would be double-tracked and electrified to connect Crossrail at Old Oak Common to the Chiltern Main Line at Northolt Junction.
  • The Chiltern Main line would be electrified from Northolt Junction to High Wycombe.
  • Chiltern’s Oxford and Birmingham services could use Class 88 electro-diesel locomotives, to take advantage of the limited electrification.
  • Extra services could run from High Wycombe to Oxford and Birmingham, if traffic required more capacity.

Except for the electrification and some track layout changes, there is no substantial investment required in new lines and stations.

If this approach is taken, there will probably be eough eletrification on the Chiltern routes to use Aventra trains with an IPEMU-capability to provide the services out of Marylebone.

 

October 25, 2016 Posted by | Transport | , , , | Leave a comment