Letters: Rail closures

Rail network faces the biggest round of closures since Beeching


Sir: I chair a group attempting to keep open the railway between Oxford and Bicester. The Department for Transport, having liquidated the Strategic Rail Authority, is now setting about closure of lines and stations all around Britain. It is doing this, in good New Labour fashion, by deceit and stealth.

First you cut services. Then you make sure the remaining ones are timed so that no one can use them. The last round saw ten trains reduce to seven, with the number usable by commuters reduced from three to one, morning and evening. The next round, hidden away in the Invitation to Tender for the Greater Western Franchise, sees just two trains a day, one after 9am, the other before 5pm. Next step: closure.

You might think that we are spoilt affluent types expecting service to our tiny quiet villages. In fact, Bicester is a sizable satellite town of around 15,000, having doubled in size over the last decade or so, and where most depend on travel to reach work. The A34 connecting Bicester with Oxford is saturated. The bus takes twice as long as the train and merely adds to the congestion.

This situation is replicated all around the country, especially where Labour votes are few. The biggest cuts since Beeching are under way. While road transport fails to pay for its massive costs in pollution and congestion, only rail is able to answer rising demand. Subsidy for bus and rail is comparable, yet bus use is falling, while that of rail has risen 48 per cent over the last decade. Road-use charging will be pointless without an alternative.

Meanwhile, the whole of Western Europe continues to invest in new high-speed rail. In France, TGV repaid its construction costs in less than a decade and is now considered an indispensable economic asset, faster door-door than aviation for inter-city travel. Continental nations are in the process of forming a rail internet - a true transport "broadband". Given that Britain will be stuck up a branch-line all its own, we had better hope that the nascent Greater Europe will prefer to keep such things open.



Divine mandate for invasion of Iraq

Sir: I was reassured to learn from your front page article of 7 October that President Bush is directly in contact with God. There can now surely be no questioning the morality of his decision-making, given the status of his chief adviser.

I am now curious as to whether our own Prime Minister is in direct contact with the Almighty, or if he requires regular briefings from Mr Bush regarding divine intent.



Sir: What is the difference between George W Bush's claim that God told him to invade Iraq and Afghanistan and Osama Bin Laden's that Allah was behind the "blessed" attacks on New York and Washington?



Sir: So Bush talks to almighty God, Blair talks to Rupert Murdoch, Brown talks to Greenspan; but alas, who's there to listen to the British people?



Sir: "Bush: God told me to invade Iraq." Well that explains it then! I'd mistakenly assumed that Bush went to war on behalf of his rich, power-crazed, influential friends - when all along it was because of his imaginary one.



Sir: The true instigator of the invasion of Iraq has now been named by George W Bush, and there can be little doubt that Osama Bin Laden would confirm the accusation. There is just one problem: exactly how is God now to be arrested and tried for crimes against humanity?



Sir: As I recall, the late Pope condemned the invasion. Perhaps the President has a hotter line to heaven.



Sir: The accusations that Iran is supplying ammunition to insurgents in Iraq wouldn't, by any chance, be based on intelligence, would they? And as for destabilising Iraq, we all know that the responsibility lies closer to home.



Sir: Tony Blair now says: "There is no justification for Iran or any other country interfering in Iraq." At last, he admits it!



Sir: Please God, if You do exist, tell Bush not to invade Iran and tell him to resign instead. Thank you. Amen.



Where are the new frontiers of 'Europe'?

Sir: Your enthusiasm for Turkish accession to the European Union takes no account of geography. Now that "Europe" extends into Kurdistan, do you wish it to drop its historic geographical meaning altogether, and become a purely socio-economic term, embracing potentially Morocco, Singapore, Uruguay or Ghana? Or if there are still limits, where are they?

There are unresolved and interlinked problems affecting the current EU, notably budget priorities (no budget), financial accountability (no audit clearance for 10 years), decision-making (no constitution), limits to the permissible areas of collective EU decision-making (if any), the French and Dutch referenda (no agreement on their meaning), and above all the nature of the institution (where on the free trade area versus superstate spectrum).

Then there is legislation. The EU is not a "club"; it is a legislative body already making between 60 per cent and 80 per cent of the laws governing us. How many of us really want each Anatolian to have as much say as each of us in framing 60 per cent of our laws? Indeed, how many Europeans want other Europeans to do so?

All the polls I have seen suggest that most Europeans don't want Turkey in until they have some agreement on these issues; and our leaders do keep promising to "listen to the people".



Safeguards on EU arrest warrant

Sir: In response to the letter from Stephen Jakobi ("EU arrest warrant is deeply flawed", 27 September), the European Commission would point out that it is most definitely not the case that the European Arrest Warrant is being implemented without safeguards.

There are a number of safeguards built into the text of the European Arrest Warrant and with which member states must comply, such as the right to a lawyer and an interpreter. This is an improvement on the previous situation whereby extradition proceedings, which the European Arrest Warrant replaces within the EU, were excluded from the definition of criminal proceedings under the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Commission hopes that a person subject to a European Warrant will shortly have more specific safeguards put forward by the Commission in its proposal for a "framework decision on certain procedural rights applying in proceedings in criminal matters throughout the European Union", currently being discussed by member states. We hope it will be adopted by the end of this year. This measure confers rights including the right to a lawyer, the right to interpretation and to translation of documents, a "letter of rights" and the right to communicate the fact of detention.

Perhaps the most positive aspect of the European Arrest Warrant is its impact on courts considering an application for bail on the part of a defendant who is a national of another member state and who wants to return home pending trial. Courts are more inclined to accede to these requests since they are aware that if the offender fails to return his or her attendance can be secured simply by issuing a European Arrest Warrant.



Bright future for mixed cricket

Sir: I appreciate the concerns of the new MCC president, Robin Marlar, about boys and girls playing alongside and against each other, (report, 3 October), but he is certainly behind the times.

Many of the female players in our county squads play for men's or boys' club teams, and that pattern continues across the country. It is one of the ways they can get more games, since there are relatively few women's and girls' teams competing (though the number is growing). Wellingborough School boasts a very fine girl player in its first XI.

I encourage our county players to play with the men, since it improves their game - and they will often make high scores or take economical wickets, much to the chagrin of their victims. Girls' teams are also allowed to join boys' leagues, though normally with an allowance of up to two years - that is, under-15 girls play against under-13 boys.



Mystery of modern footballing injuries

Sir: I note with much sadness that yet another footballer has a serious foot injury ("Injured Cole to miss England's week of World Cup destiny", 5 October).

I wonder why this happens so often. Is it because of the boots used in the modern game? I remember watching football in the Sixties and Seventies when the team was almost the same each week. I continue to watch football today and the team changes constantly, largely because of injuries.

Maybe our players today are softer, or more protected by the sophisticated scanning equipment that picks up every problem. They are certainly protected by referees who will not allow any physical contact, unlike in the Sixties and Seventies when every team had a "Chopper" Harris or Norman Hunter style player. Perhaps a study should be undertaken of the equipment used by the players.



Injecting insulin is easy and painless

Sir: As a diabetes research nurse, I was horrified by the image of a syringe and large needle on your front page article about diabetes (6 October).

This size of needle is never used to inject insulin; in fact it is many years since syringes were routinely used to give insulin. Pharmaceutical companies have now developed easily managed insulin "pens", incorporating an insulin cartridge and a small fine needle, nothing like the one shown.

When patients need insulin to control their diabetes, they are often put off by the thought of giving themselves injections. This sort of image only exacerbates their fear. Most patients who start insulin are amazed how easy and painless it actually is.



Well-ordered cities are dull places

Sir: We see the regular appearance of surveys claiming that this or that worthy and no doubt pleasant city is top of the international league for quality of life. The latest one (5 October) puts cities in Canada, Australia, Austria and Switzerland at the top, with London 47th.

Well, good luck to them, I say. No one disputes the scope for improvement in London's facilities and services. But the world divides into those who like their cities small, well-ordered but essentially dull, and those like myself who are willing to trade a degree of convenience for the buzz of living in a truly great, exciting and dynamic city, like Paris, New York, Beijing, Mumbai ... or London.



Shoes that don't fit

Sir: I was grateful for the advice on ethical shoes from Sally J Hall (4 October), but I'm afraid none of her selection would suit me. The assumption behind the piece seems to be either that men are not interested in ethics or that they are not interested in shoes. I'm not sure which offends me the more.



Good spelling

Sir: Several correspondents have advocated spelling reform. Children have little difficulty spelling Thierry, Eriksson or Mourinho, because they read these names often. Wrongly-spelled words simply look wrong to the experienced reader, however irregular their spelling may be. Let's concentrate on turning our children into keen readers, and good spelling will follow.



Eco-unfriendly batteries

Sir: Steven Ford (letter, 6 October) suggests saving cheap overnight power with storage batteries to reduce the cost of electricity (Letters, 6 October). Well maybe, but aren't his own batteries subsidised by a Clear Skies grant for the solar PV system? More to the point, this is not eco-friendly. Battery efficiency is 60 to 70 per cent, so each unit of night-stored electricity will "cost" an extra third in CO2 emission.



Colourful language

Sir: Would someone like to explain why being called "coloured" is now offensive ("Phillips's challenge to ethnic minorities", 5 October)? Of all the racist names I was called at school that was not one of them. If it is offensive to term anyone "coloured", could someone also explain what this means for the future of that august American organisation, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People?



Missing the target

Sir: Sam Little's letter (7 October) recommending the use of an air rifle to kill a pheasant is more than a little alarming. The suggestion may have been meant as a joke, but let us hope that no one tries it. It would take an expert marksman to achieve a head shot guaranteeing a clean kill. In any case, pheasants are rarely accomodating enough to keep their heads still.



Cruel punishment

Sir: Not only should prisoners be allowed to vote, as the European Court of Human Rights has ruled, it should be made compulsory. An obligatory prerequisite should be to watch every party political broadcast made during their period of incarceration. That would have the dual benefit of increasing the franchise and reducing the rate of re-offending at a stroke.



React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, Accreditation, ITIL)

£70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Information Security Manager (ISO 27001, A...

C# Developer (HTML5, JavaScript, ASP.NET, Mathematics, Entity)

£30000 - £45000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

C# Integration Developer (.NET, Tibco EMS, SQL 2008/2012, XML)

£60000 - £80000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Integration...

Biztalk - outstanding opportunity

£75000 - £85000 per annum + ex bens: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Biztalk Te...

Day In a Page

Read Next
It's not only the British who haven't been behaving well abroad; pictured here are German fans celebrating their team's latest victory  

Holiday snaps that bite back: What happens in Shagaluf no longer stays in Shagaluf

Ellen E Jones
Simon Laird (left) and Sister Simon Laird, featured in the BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets  

Estates of the nation: Let's hear it for the man in the street

Simmy Richman
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor
Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy: Was the otter man the wildlife champion he appeared to be?

Otter man Gavin Maxwell's bitter legacy

The aristocrat's eccentric devotion to his pets inspired a generation. But our greatest living nature writer believes his legacy has been quite toxic
Joanna Rowsell: The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia

Joanna Rowsell: 'I wear my wig to look normal'

The World Champion cyclist on breaking her collarbone, shattering her teeth - and dealing with alopecia
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef gives raw ingredients a lift with his quick marinades

Bill Granger's quick and delicious marinades

Our chef's marinades are great for weekend barbecuing, but are also a delicious way of injecting flavour into, and breaking the monotony of, weekday meals
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014 preview: Why Brazilians don't love their neighbours Argentina any more

Anyone but Argentina – why Brazilians don’t love their neighbours any more

The hosts will be supporting Germany in today's World Cup final, reports Alex Bellos
The Open 2014: Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?

The Open 2014

Time again to ask that major question - can Lee Westwood win at last?