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Saturday 1 October 2011
Letters: Speed limit changes
Motorway carnage approaching fast
The Transport Secretary's proposal to increase the national speed limit to 80mph is a pre-emptive strike against those able to present compelling evidence that a lower limit of between 50 and 60mph would have substantial and lasting social, economic and environmental benefits.
Excessive and differential speeds are main causes of road congestion costing upwards of £20bn per year and will also prevent meeting the carbon reduction targets set by the Committee on Climate Change, which supports a 60mph limit. The Department of Transport has admitted that such a reduction is "necessary but politically impossible". This is not because of the backlash from drivers with over-powered cars currently able to travel too far and too fast, but because of the substantial loss of fuel tax revenues that would result from the greater efficiency and reduced consumption of a road transport system based on a lower speed limit.
Current conditions in respect of oil price and security are not very different from those in 1973 when the speed limit was reduced to 50mph. The Transport Secretary should look in the rear view mirror, slow down and prepare for a U turn.
So the Government wants a debate on the issue of increased speed limits on motorways. I must be living is some parallel universe where the complete opposite of common sense is the norm.
I have recently clocked up around 18,000 miles a year (most on motorways). It is obvious that raising the speed limit to 80 will raise the accident risk factor. When those outside-lane hoggers are reading the address of the parcel in the back of the car in front, it will amount to virtual suicide.
This will be bad enough at 80mph, but everybody knows it will be 90mph by default in a year or two.
Higher speed limits will mean more accidents that are more severe, leading to longer random delays or road closures.
Most people travelling have appointments, and it matters less to them whether a journey takes an hour or just 55 minutes than whether they can have a higher degree of confidence that they will arrive on schedule rather than an hour or two late. It is likely that raising the speed limit will hamper business, not promote it.
Dr Mark Scott
I am intrigued by this whole notion of an 80mph speed limit helping business by allowing people to get places quicker. As an alternative boost to the economy, can I suggest business executives forgo their morning shower and cup of coffee and leave home 15 minutes earlier?
Increasing the motorway speed limit is a typical Tory sop to the petrol-head tendency. It isn't the much-hyped law-abiding motorist who'll benefit, but boy racers. Meanwhile those of us dependent on buses face service cuts as the Government are set to reduce the fuel subsidy companies get.
As we approach or have already reached "peak oil", any responsible government would reduce the speed limit, not raise it.
Can we introduce a corollary to Godwin's Law, so that anyone who mentions Jeremy Clarkson in a discussion involving transport or road safety automatically loses?
Great Amwell, Hertfordshire
The mad world of banking
People are being brainwashed about the trade of banking. It is quite simple, simpler than carpentry but requiring more judgement and common sense, and has varied little in principle over the centuries, despite the reinvention of the wheel by the City of London and New York.
Banking consists of a customer lending money to a banker, who lends it on to another customer, whom he charges interest. That interest is paid to the original lender after the banker has taken expenses plus some profit. The additional requirement is that we trust the banker, otherwise we would keep the money under the bed. As it is said: "A bank's good name is its stock in trade."
Now the reinventors of the wheel have added an additional factor, that of speculating, gambling, betting, whatever term you choose for the same thing, and keeping the profit for themselves, having paid their trading staff, who require the ability and attitude of barrow-boys, large amounts of money for buying and selling at the right moment – skilled, but not as skilled as a carpenter.
But surely people would not put their money in such banks? Why not? I have some of mine there. Why? Because the Government underwrites any loss I could endure from these gamblers' antics up to £85,000.
Mad? An accountant points out in a letter (30 September), that for everyone who wins a bet someone else loses. Any bookie will confirm that. This is modern banking. Is it beyond the wit and ability of the Government to stop it before another financial catastrophe?
Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Bankers
As a follower of the Micawber school of accountancy, I am grateful to Malcolm Howard (letter, 30 September) for answering a question which has troubled me since the sub-prime mortgage bubble burst: what were the auditors doing?
It seems that they were following International Financial Reporting Standards, an accounting system that can conjure credit balances out of thin air. Like Mr Howard I am astonished that IFRS has not been recognised and pilloried as a false system, especially in the hands of avaricious bankers.
Colin V Smith
St Helens, Merseyside
It is disappointing that reporting of the latest Financial Services Authority figures on customer complaints focused so heavily on pointing the finger at "poor" performers ("Barclays tops FSA complaints league", 28 September).
Despite being singled out as being the most complained-about bank, Barclays actually reduced customer complaints by some 14 per cent on the same period last year. The reduction reflects a genuine focus on improving customer service by UK banks, an initiative reflected in the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index, a twice-yearly survey with 26,000 consumer respondents. This shows an overall increase in public satisfaction with retail banks in the first six months of 2011, and a marked improvement in complaint handling over the same period.
Of course, the banks still have a great deal of work to do to restore customer trust after the financial crisis. But the latest FSA statistics and UKCSI results are undoubtedly a step in the right direction.
Chief Executive, Institute of Customer Service,
Pioneers of the air
My late wife was a stewardess with BOAC working on the De Havilland Comet, the first jet airliner ("Flights of fancy", 29 September).
She was a stewardess, not hostess, for several reasons. She had to speak two languages, other than English, be trained in first aid to St John's Ambulance level, and be a member of the Bar Tenders' Guild. She had to not only swim in her clothes, but right a large rubber dinghy.
She wore a navy blue uniform, because the men running BOAC were ex-Navy, and the stewardesses' hair certainly had to stay well above collar length. The same men also insisted they should not use "khol" to shadow their eyes.
She also did it to see the world, when travel was limited for the average person. She got to most of Africa, India, Australia and America.
My wife taught reception class at a primary school. One day the discussion turned to aircraft and she asked if anyone knew what an air hostess was. One little boy's hand shot up: "They're dinner ladies on airplanes."
BBC staff head north
We need not share Joan Smith's concern for the way the BBC treats families (Notebook, 28 September). The move to Salford is hardly a surprise. Employees have had plenty of time, years in fact, to get their houses in order.
And Chris Hollins (BBC Breakfast sports presenter) need not worry that his fiancée will have to give up her job in London and move to Manchester. She won't. One "breadwinner" working away from the family home has been the norm for very many families for a very long time.
Should these BBC employees eschew the real and many delights of living in the north of England, not least the cheap (by London standards) and wonderful housing on offer, there will be innumerable more talented people local to the area who will relish the opportunity to have their jobs and their salaries.
I cannot believe that, in days when our world is falling to pieces, English media are once again, for six months, going to be obsessed with England footballers' toes and wives – apparently the two most fragile and controversial appendages of those men.
Faster than light
Dr John E Finch
Perspectives on rubbish collections
Your chicken tikka masala is already taken care of
The main premise of Eric Pickles's plan to incentivise local authorities to bring back weekly collections of rubbish-to-landfill is, in Pickles's words, that "It's a basic right for every English man and woman to be able to put the remnants of their chicken tikka masala in their bin without having to wait a fortnight for it to be collected."
But this premise is fatally flawed. For, here in Norwich City Council area, we councillors added a food waste collection component into the job of dustmen. In Norwich, which is among those councils to have consistently year after year increased recycling rates over the last decade, recycling is collected every fortnight, alternating with rubbish-to-landfill – but food waste is collected every week.
Anyone's tikka masala remnants are collected regularly without stinking out the neighbourhood – and without the vast additional expense (and the negative impact upon recycling-rates) of abolishing alternate weekly collections.
East of England Green Party Co-ordinator.
Disaster for recycling
The Government's decision to return to weekly bin collections is madness. Not only will it be more expensive for taxpayers, research from Wrap has categorically shown that weekly pick-ups will decrease recycling of paper, plastic and cans by 30-46kg per household. Across the UK, that equates to almost 1,200,000 tonnes more being sent to landfill, the precise solution we are meant to be trying to avoid.
If the Government wants to make a material difference to the way that we dispose of our waste, than the emphasis absolutely must be on encouraging recycling. Time and again we have heard that this is the priority, yet this decision will catastrophically undermine the entire industry – at the very time when we need it as a foundation for the low-carbon economy.
Managing Director, ECO Plastics
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