Yesterday there was a meeting of the Sittingbourne Local Engagement Forum. I have previously written about this forum in October. It is a good idea allowing ordinary people to connect with their councillors to hear some of what they are up to.
The main item was a presentation and discussion of an integrated transport plan for Kent and we had representatives from the trains, buses and Kent CC present. Quite an eye opener and a lot of thought had gone into it.
After the presentations I stood up, proudly introduced myself as the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, and asked two questions.
Firstly, this was a 20 year plan! Are there any interim targets so we know what improvements we can expect in three to five years? I didn’t get an answer except for a rather unnecessary comment about how politicians only think in the short term. True but irrelevant. There are many older people in our area and it would be difficult for me to say to my 85 year old D-Day veteran friend, ‘Don’t worry, Arthur. In twenty years it will be easier to get on a bus to Maidstone.’
My second question referred to one of the many miseries of commuters – fares! The price of an annual ticket from Sittingbourne to London with underground using the new high speed train is nearly £4,000. What can be done to reduce or freeze prices? The answer blamed the private company and the government. While this may be true, I didn’t find it very constructive.
Sittingbourne’s new high speed train is the pride and joy of the local railway – but it goes to St Pancras and not Victoria so therefore the time of the journey remains the same!! You travel faster but a longer distance! Yes Minister is alive and well.
Maybe I am too cynical here as the whole exercise was very interesting and it was good of the various representatives to come along. I will send separate emails in an attempt to get some answers to my questions.