SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Goodwill and trains

It is enjoyable and important to join community and church events; this can include contributing to raffles and other draws.

Sir Peter Bottomley with a friend at The Lamb, Angmering
Sir Peter Bottomley with a friend at The Lamb, Angmering

I register with pleasure that the third prize at the East Preston church festival made it possible for Virginia and I to go for an excellent dinner at The Lamb, Angmering. Given the pub’s name, we chose to be with friends who had bred sheep for decades.

The food, the service and the atmosphere were excellent. The bonus was meeting a gathering of constituents, a reunion of Worthing United supporters. Lee and Martin Newbon are the links. Lee had lived near the church on the Willowhayne estate. His football supporters surrounded him.

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Churches and pubs are significant in their different ways. In addition to the primary purpose, including giving a welcome to all, each is the centre of associated community activities.

Our towns and villages along and near the Sussex coast have always been respected. Sadly that has not always been so for places elsewhere, especially those hit by major change in employment and prosperity.

The selection of Kingston upon Hull, 250 miles from Worthing, as City of Culture has given Britain and the world the opportunity to admire the history and the present vitality. I am proud that my wife Virginia has served as Sheriff of the city and as Chancellor of the university.

Joining the crowd of nearly 100,000, we watched the evening fireworks on New Year’s Day. No one was disorderly; everyone enjoyed the show. I recommend seeing Hull this year.

The American ambassador Matthew Barzun, before returning home, named it as his favourite city, selecting from its history the anti-slavery campaigner William Wilberforce and the mathematician John Venn who is famous for his logic diagram.

Is there any logic in the rail unions’ dispute? I do not think so. A visitor to the National Boat Show in London is likely to travel by Underground train and on the Docklands Light Railway. I have looked at the screens that show the tube driver the carriages and doors. That system runs safely.

A passenger can sit at the front of the DLR because for 30 years the trains have run without drivers. The Southern operators are not proposing driverless trains. They are not proposing to roster fewer of the on-train staff who assist travellers.

No means of transport is risk free. What is clear is that rail passengers are remarkably safer than people in cars or on motorbikes or cyclists or walkers.

The bogus ‘safety concerns’ of the rail unions have been flatly contradicted by the recognised authorities. The real risks of people struggling to work or to hospital are recognised by everyone.

We have shared the season of peace and goodwill. Again, I ask the rail unions to end the backward attempt to penalise rail passengers. Let us have peace and goodwill.

Imagine how a train driver or conductor would feel if the teachers of their children or the caring staff for their family in hospital chose to disrupt their own services so often for so long without substantial reason.

If it would help, I would meet the rail union representatives – how about in a West Sussex pub?


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