The world is changing fast. As we closed for press, the coronavirus crisis was deepening, with the Government advising people to avoid pubs, clubs and theatres. Where possible, firms were making arrangements for employees to work from home. The stock market was in steep decline and it was clear that the economic implications of the health crisis would be profound and long lasting.
Airlines are one of the hardest hit industries, with many carriers grounding most of their fleets. But a range of other sectors, from hotels and hospitality to haircutting and dental hygiene, are looking at a major hit to their revenue. And of course the railways are not exempt: by the end of the second week of March, some routes were looking at a 50% drop in patronage, and it seemed as if this was likely to be only the start of the crisis. The operator owning groups, many already in trouble from a softening of the economy since last autumn, were queuing up behind the airlines to request government assistance. Some move to short-term management contracts seemed likely.