It is shocking that more than 50,000 people in Britain each year are dying prematurely due to air pollution ("Britain. A breath of foul air", 21 March). You point out that one of the main causes is car pollution. One way to reduce premature deaths would be to reduce the absurd distances that people travel to work. The RAC Foundation reported in 2003 that British commuting times, at an average of 45 minutes, are the longest in Europe, and that most of these journeys are by car.
If more of us lived near to our workplaces, we would have more leisure time and all get fitter by walking or cycling to work. Employers would benefit, because people could get to work even when there were transport strikes or heavy snow. Everyone would gain from cleaner air and less congestion and traffic noise. Fewer oil imports would even help the balance of payments.
The Government should encourage employers to discriminate in favour of local candidates, and instead of subsidising drivers with free parking spaces, employers, particularly in the public sector, could provide free secure parking spaces for bicycles and showers, and stop insisting on impractical workwear such as suits and ties.
2 per cent for the planet
Your article on Colombia did not explain the political and economic causes of the ongoing imperialist war ("After the revolution", 21 March). You omit to mention the heavy involvement of the United States, the past and present mass human rights abuses committed by the right-wing neo-liberal Uribe government, and its deep involvement in backing the murderous right-wing paramilitaries in collusion with the Colombian military. This has been armed by both the US and British governments and ably assisted by their military "advisers", the Medellin drugs cartels and western oil and gas multinationals such as BP.
What of the thousands upon thousands of Colombian trade unionists assassinated, the hundreds of journalists, student leaders, human rights defenders, indigenous activists and progressive lawyers killed, tortured and disappeared and the "forced displacement" of millions of Colombians by the Colombian state?
All this and more is happening as part of a state terror policy and the growing, US-backed multibillion-dollar counter-insurgency programme against the Colombian people, also threatening to attack and destabilise progressive left-wing governments in Venezuela and Ecuador and beyond.
The United States not only gives billions to Israel, it has to support Egypt and Jordan to keep them sweet ("Cut off the cash, and Israel might behave", 21 March). If the US had spent only a tiny part of this in helping to resettle Palestinian refugees, a lot of the friction would not have happened. I wonder how long American citizens will put up with this.
Of Britain's train service, Janet Street-Porter employs the journalistic boilerplate mantra "The dirt, the waiting, the filthy trains..." ("Travel is great in the UK – as long as you are a bat", 21 March). I travel regularly on the East Coast, the South East lines and the London Transport trains and buses. For the most part, the facilities are clean to the point of spotlessness, trains run on time and arrive within reasonable timetabling. Bearing in mind the numbers of persons involved, the shortage of litter bins, the profusion of free newspapers and the grazing habits of the average individual, the resulting maintenance of cleanliness is exceptional. The few hours of packed commuter transport may not come up to scratch, but this is surely an impossible task.
At the age of 75, I can only remember things getting better since the demise of steam. Travel on the rail systems of other countries, with a few exceptions such as France's TGV, is usually worse and certainly scruffier.
A train going from A to B should not have to wait for another train passing by, going from C to D, running on the same track or even crossing it. It is not only dangerous but an aberration which we do not know on the Continent. In my native France, we have trains going from A to B and back, end of. A minister such as Lord Adonis may be Cambridge or Oxford clever, but he is certainly not Brunel.
Kingston upon Thames, Surrey
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