#ItsTime for a Better Connected New Forest

by jackdavies on 4 July, 2019

When I first became involved in community campaigning, back in 2014 at the age of eighteen, I was still doing my A-Levels and getting a coach to and from Arnewood Sixth Form in New Milton. I chose Arnewood over Brockenhurst College, having completed my GCSEs at Priestlands in the summer of 2012, predominantly because I had a guaranteed mode of transport there and back (thanks to Isaac Hobby for convincing me way back when).

As I became more involved in campaigns that spanned multiple towns and villages in the New Forest, I became ever more aware of how difficult it is for those people who do not have a car – the young, the elderly, the disabled, to get from one place to another in the New Forest.

I am fortunate enough to live in Pennington. If I want to get to Bournemouth or Southampton, I only need to hop on the X1/2 or 6 Bus respectively. If I am in a hurry, I can get the Lymington flyer and go from Brockenhurst Railway Station. However, if I want to go from Pennington to Ringwood, I then need to get the train to Bournemouth Station and get the X3 bus which goes to Salisbury via Ringwood. To Fordingbridge, I need to get the bus to Bournemouth Hospital and get the X3 again. It is a disgrace that people must go via Bournemouth if they want to get to the northernmost towns.

While funnelling public transport from the New Forest towards Southampton in the east and Bournemouth in the west is certainly good for the economies of those areas, it is bad for the economies of New Forest towns and villages. If we want to strengthen the overall New Forest economy, we must provide a direct route for public transport between the north and south of the New Forest.

That is why I want Hampshire County Council and Network Rail to investigate re-establishing the Ringwood to Brockenhurst Branch Line. Furthermore, I call on Morebus to operate a passenger bus service between either Lymington or New Milton in the south to Ringwood and Fordingbridge in the north.

These are not solutions which are easy and they will take time. However, if we can make sure the New Forest is better connected, the economic and social rewards will justify the effort.

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