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Rutland MP Alicia Kearns discusses government’s ticket office U-turn and Middle East conflict

I start with very good news, because the Transport Secretary has listened to the concerns of many MPs, accessibility groups and communities and asked train operators to withdraw their proposals, writes Rutland MP Alicia Kearns (Con).

This should mean our ticket office at Oakham will remain manned and open! I know this will come as a great relief to our communities.

I have been working with Caldecott residents and raising their concerns with Rutland County Council about the problems with their stretch of the A6003, and the need for a bypass around the village. As a result of these discussions, I am very pleased to have secured a commitment from Rutland County Council to appoint an independent highways expert to conduct a study into the problems pertaining to the section of the A6003 through Caldecott.

Ensuring the safety of our roads across our rural communities remains a key priority for me, and it is great news that the Council has listened to the strength of voices.

In other news locally, I am delighted that as the Government announced a 60% national increase in its Bus Service Operator Grant per mile cash grant, Voluntary Action Rutland will receive an uplift in funding for their Social Car and Community Transport Scheme. They provide transport services for those who experience difficulties travelling independently, ensuring access to our market towns, medical appointments, and social activities.

Since I last wrote, many of you have been asking how our new Banking Hub in Oakham will work, and when it will be up and running. The good news about the new hub is that we’ll now have many banks serving us in Rutland rather than just one. From Monday to Friday the Cash Access UK Hub will work on a rotating basis, meaning that representatives from different banks will be available on different days of the week to assist customers with more complex banking enquiries. However, everyday banking services for any of the partner banks will be provided each day no matter which bank you are a customer at. I expect the opening to be in early 2024, but I will update you as soon as I receive confirmation of this.

Alicia Kearns visits Jordan and His Majesty King Abdullah
Alicia Kearns visits Jordan and His Majesty King Abdullah

Tragically my update to you this fortnight would be incomplete without my reflections on the situation in the Middle East. The situation in Gaza, and the increasing evidence of what happened on 7th October, is unbearable, and whilst the horrors cannot be unseen, we must not look away. Having met three of the loved ones of the British nationals being held hostage by Hamas, I hold them in my thoughts daily and I spent last week in Jordan, meeting with his Majesty the King of Jordan, and his Government, as well as Palestinian refugees seeking to identify solutions to the crisis.

It is possible to support Israel and grieve with her people, whilst recognising that how Israel prosecutes what should be a counter terrorism operation, will shape her long-term security and the stability of the region. There is a strategic imperative to defeat Hamas to protect Israel’s immediate future, but how they are defeated matters, and will help prevent regional escalation.

We need to alleviate the suffering, now. I have called for a humanitarian truce to free hostages, get civilians trapped in Gaza the life-saving aid they need, get British nationals out and to safety, and to create the space to open a second aid route through Jordan and the West Bank. A truce is what I personally and realistically assess to be achievable at this point, and would most swiftly save lives.

Alicia Kearns visits Jordan
Alicia Kearns visits Jordan

Since January, I have been urging the Government to recognise my concerns about the situation in the Middle East and my fears of a "Gaza crisis of 2023". Although I could never have imagined the crimes against humanity that Hamas undertook, I so wish I had been wrong. We have a responsibility to urge adherence to international humanitarian law, and our actions will determine our ability to be an arbiter in future conflict.

A truce does not end Israel’s right to self-defence, but recognises and allows her international humanitarian responsibilities to be met. Let us hold the people of Israel and Gaza in our hearts.

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