Michael Williams: Readers' editor

Did you miss the train? We certainly did
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The Independent Online

Sat in the same train carriage as David Cameron the other day. Nothing remarkable about that, you might think. Except Tory leaders have generally been renowned for their dislike of trains. Margaret Thatcher was a rare and reluctant train traveller after an incident in which a militant student protester burst into her compartment and harangued her.

Modern trains don't have compartments – and party leaders have to mingle with the plebs, albeit First Class ones. Mr Cameron's discomfiture was clear after delays caused by Network Rail signal failures. Should he become prime minister, it is likely that the railways will become even more friendless than they have been under the present government, which has starved them cruelly of investment.

Now the 'IoS', too, seems intent on removing the rail system from the map, according to reader Jess Holbrook from Reading: "I am a teacher and have always used your mostly excellent maps and charts as a teaching aid. However, there are no railway lines to be seen – although the road network is highlighted. Shouldn't you, as a 'green' paper, be encouraging people to use the most environmental form of transport?"

Quite right, Ms Holbrook. So was this policy? Or an omission? I rang Marcus Kirby, the managing director of The Future Mapping Company, who produced the map for the 'IoS'. "What we were trying to do was something different from traditional, lifeless maps – more colourful and interesting. We wondered just how much data we could get in there. We've got nothing against the railways and we'll certainly consider putting them in for the future now I've heard about reader concerns."

Another small victory for reader power.


Message Board: Why have our children reached breaking point?

Last week's alarming UN report about the poverty, unhappiness and fear of crime that blight childhood in Britain led to this debate:


Many troubled youngsters come from poor backgrounds. The Government could introduce a scheme to adopt and care for these poor children. Then society is directly responsible for them.


Perhaps some of this is true of children's lives in London, but it's not for the rest of the country. Also children are unreliable witnesses and make up stories which simply aren't true.


We give lip service to the idea that children are human beings, but we don't take them seriously or allow them to be free. Herding and controlling children creates liars, bullies and shallow thinkers.


As a home educator I agree with Thomas. Most of the angst that young people feel is a result of coercion to do things that they have no urge to do. Incessant testing is bound to have dire results.


Has Mack any idea of the level of abuse in those homes where children were once put? Rather than removing them from their parents, let's educate them. Offer them a chance for a future, not a dead end.


Children do need limits and boundaries, but the state shouldn't have to erect them. They should be built by responsible parents. Society is at fault only in that we have become awfully decadent.


The pressure of unnecessary exams is appalling. I am shocked at the pressure my 12-year-old is under, and how little time she has to play. The Government is taking the joy out of childhood.


Kids do so many out-of-school activities – sport, music, Brownies etc. All of them are great, but the children are permanently knackered. By the end of term, their behaviour is really bad.

To have your say on this or any other issue visit www.independent.co.uk/IoSblogs