My brother recently travelled from Edinburgh on a rare visit. He is no longer a young man and as he has impaired vision needs to use public transport.
Although he lives in a small rural village in Scotland and does not have ideal transport services, he has at least access to fairly regular bus services and handy train links, which makes travelling relatively easy to plan on a daily basis and provides him with a quality of life he would otherwise simply not have.
Unfortunately, because of commitments at home, he can only visit when an opportunity arises. Consequently, journeys down to Northumberland are, more often than not, spur of the moment decisions.
Train-wise, this means he rarely has time to book a seat on the busy Edinburgh to London train, which is the only one he can take to our area.
Even using this train, only a limited number actually stop at our nearest station, which is Morpeth, about eight miles away. Generally, he has to be picked up from Newcastle, a round trip of 35 to 40 miles, or Berwick, a round trip of more than 100 miles.
Such services are far from adequate and certainly not ideal for someone who is elderly with a serious disability.
Interestingly, because of his disability, he travels free in Scotland on all transport – buses, trains and ferries. Yet, here in Northumberland rail fares are being increased for a practically non-existent, non-accommodating or easily accessible train service.
I live in the South East of Northumberland and have no rail service whatsoever. The nearest Metro Station is at least 15 miles away and the bus services infrequent, complicated to use, unreliable and difficult to access. This leaves little alternative but the car.
In addition, I have serious health problems and really struggle to walk to my nearest bus stop, which is about three-quarters of a mile away, at which only a very limited number of buses stop. Even then, almost every journey will entail at least one change.
Imagine having to spend any length of time away from home on a wet day if you have been absolutely soaked just getting to the bus stop.
Hopefully, you might appreciate why I never use buses. I have had a bus pass for over 10 years and have only been able to take advantage of it once.
I have lived in Northumberland for more than 20 years now and love the place.
Since I arrived, I have heard nothing but talk about re-opening rail links to Newcastle, upgrading the disastrous A1 – bitty, sticking-plaster solutions are applied to a fatally flawed road system – and investing in local infrastructure improvements, all of which are essential for the survival of a secure local economy and for providing decent public facilities for the various communities in the county.
Not one iota has changed in all that time.
The North East is the land both time and governments forgot. “We don’t need them, so ignore them”, seems to be the policy.
It is time for our MPs and councillors of all parties to be heard and not just seen.