SIR PETER BOTTOMLEY: Roads and rails from Worthing to Westminster

Sir Peter Bottomley
Sir Peter Bottomley

The dominant memories in this week are faith related. Tim Loughton and I met by the queue outside St Matthew’s Church, in Tarring Road, Worthing, on Friday to be part of the prayer service led by the curate Sara-Jane Stevens.

The Reverend David Hill spoke to the congregation. The parish magazine includes the reminder that the Bible tells us more than 80 times, “do not be afraid.”

On Sunday, with others from the town hall and from local churches, Virginia and I were welcomed at the mosque.

Visitors can see the display of friendly letters from school children who have also visited.

At ward and branch meeting, and at my party’s constituency council meetings in recent days, I often reflect on how there are agreements and disagreements between us.

We should make more of the agreements.

The awkwardness of current attempts in Northern Ireland to reach agreement on restoring provincial government is a reminder that we should not take for granted the achievement of working together, understanding differences of view or of alternative proposals for improvements ahead.

Perhaps we can learn from the faith groups.

I have valued past opportunities to bring a Jewish student, a Muslim and a Christian together to meet in the constituency a senior Jewish woman, the Salvation Army and leaders at the mosque. We all gain.

We will also gain when the RMT union ends its apparently endless series of days of action.

I long for the days, the weeks and the years when modern trains with staff in modern roles give passengers a reliable regular service that can be chosen ahead of road journeys whenever possible.

One of my voluntary appointments is to serve as a vice president of IAM RoadSmart, with Nick Ross.

The president is Nigel Mansell.

I was present at Silverstone in 1987 when he won the Formula One Grand Prix in the rain.

Nick Ross and I first met in Harare when the BBC were making a film about the future of education as Southern Rhodesia became Zimbabwe.

Nick and I give each other credit for the setting of road casualty reduction targets.

With others 30 years ago, we managed to unite the media, voluntary groups and professionals in ways to reduce road deaths from 5,600 a year.

The present total, 1,700 to 1,800, is still far too high.

If we can aim to get close to elimination of air and rail deaths, we can aim at further great cuts in avoidable road deaths too.

At a meeting this week Sarah Sillars brought us together to consider future trends.

Clever vehicles may eventually make the driver as unneeded as the fireman on steam locomotives.

Not in my time, though I do welcome the technical advances.

I believe much driver training can and should be on simulators.

I also wonder how we can assist more elderly people to continue safely to get about, by rail and bus and car.

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