Local transport

Last Friday evening, I attended a form on public transport held in Storrington and organised by the Wiggonholt Association.

With representatives from West Sussex County Council and Southern rail, we had a good debate.

There should be a faster rail service on the Arun line.  A major cause of deprivation in our coastal communities which really aren't far from London is that the key road and rail transport links are so poor.

The late Bill Deedes used to recount that his train service from Kent to London was faster in the days of steam!

The big push to get people out of cars and onto public transport is always going to be less realistic in rural areas, where it's often impossible to get around except by car.

Fortunately rapid advances in technology are making cars greener, and it may not be too long before we have electric cars and hydrogen fuel cells which don't burn carbon at all.

But let's not forget about the important minority of people who don't have cars and who therefore rely on services like buses, which are often poor.

Earlier in the day, a couple came to one of my surgeries to point out that a local bus service drove past their village rather than stop in it, which can't make sense.

But too often buses run almost empty, and the services in rural areas can be expensive and uneconomic.  Bus use has been going down by about 10 per cent a year for the last two decades, in contrast to trains, where passenger numbers have been rising.

Rather than expecting more commercial bus services which will never materialise, the solution might lie in supporting community groups which run local minibuses.

Once again, it is the heroic volunteers in our villages, like the people who drive the elderly to shops or hospital appointments, that keep our public services going.

Michelle Taylor