Dear Editor, I find it heartening to see people taking time and effort to express their concern over the closure of the Walsall-Wolverhampton rail link.

This is like a throw-back to the Marples/Beeching era when everyone thought that roads were the answer. Ernest Marples rubbed his hands with glee with the thought that his company would be building unending motorways.

Well, they are with us now and getting further clogged by the minute. Yet we want to get a rid of a railway from an area of the country with the worst railway and transport infrastructure! We hear talk about doing something about transport when the government thinks fit to give us something.

A high-speed link connecting us with the south-east and the continent is supposedly on the cards. Local transport is at least as important as national networks, the one working in hand with the other. I would argue that local transport is much more important locally, so that more people can access work and leisure activities.

However when that money comes our way, what is the vision for transport that will transform our clogged-up arteries?

The tram? Well, a tram system was started and left in the air with local groups expressing horror that it might be in their back yards.

Rapid Transit? This was offered to Coventry as a consolation prize for not getting a look-in at the Metro, but would it provide a viable alternative?

An enhanced rail network? We’re closing it down . An underground system? Is Council leader Mike Whitby still dreaming? We’ll all be long gone by the time anything happens.

For the cost of building one underground station, you’ would get many tram stops - look at Manchester’s system. Birmingham’s high water-table poses problems for going down under, anyway. So if there’s money, we need a plan. Please let us know who has it and where it is

John Tyrrell,


A steady erosion of our rights and civil liberties under Labour

Dear Editor, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” Cast shadow immigration minister, Damian Green, in the role of Thomas Beckett and a senior civil servant or minister as Henry II and you have one possible scenario to explain the extraordinary action of the police in arresting the MP who has caused considerable embarrassment to their paymasters in the Home Office.

Damian Green’s “crime” appears to have been exposing a government cover-up over the number of illegal immigrants working in the security industry (some of them working in highly sensitive areas, including government offices and airports), thereby reinforcing the widely-held view that the Home Office is “not fit for purpose”.

Either the police have acted of their own volition, in which case this country is further down the road to a “police/surveillance state” than even the most pessimistic observers would have imagined, or they did so at the bidding of someone at a high enough level in government to invoke the Official Secrets Act and the use of counter-terrorism officers to carry out the arrest in a manner more reminiscent of Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe than the home of our own “Mother of Parliaments”. Whichever explanation is closer to the truth; this event will only serve to reinforce a belief shared by many people that, since the attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11th 2001, we have witnessed a steady erosion of our rights and civil liberties under this ‘New Labour’ administration, using the pretext of “counter-terrorism”.

After those awful events, my greater fear was not the threat from ‘Al-Qaeda’, but how far our elected representatives would go in dismantling our freedoms and creating the very kind of closed, repressive society that these terrorists are striving to create.

Keith Davis,
Holly Close, Kinver.


Council needs to look closer to home for a faster transport policy

Dear Editor, Some bright spark from Birmingham City Council has just been interviewed on BBC Radio 4 talking about the importance of reducing the 100 mile or so train journey time from London to Birmingham to one hours, using new high-speed lines.

Given the Council’s enthusiasm for speedy travel perhaps they would like to explain why on Saturday 29th November, at about 1515, it took me 25 minutes to drive from half-way up Great Charles Street to Paradise Circus, a distance of about 200 metres?

The cause of the congestion was clear for all to see - the convergence of traffic at the end of Great Charles Street, under the Public Library, was made impossible by an apparently endless queue of empty buses cutting across the junction and blocking it to all traffic.

And the solution is equally clear - install a set of traffic lights (God knows, you’ve got thousands of them everywhere else) to control the junction and prevent it becoming an unfair, time-wasting, polluting, frustrating free-for-all.

Train travel, normally my favourite way of doing this journey, isn’t practical after a concert ending just before 2200, and in any event New Street Station produces the same horrendous delays. All my last three journeys back from there have been delayed by the well-documented shambles at that awful station.

However, after that experience of unmanaged traffic chaos I’ll think twice before I do it again.

J E S Bradshaw.


Investment in new vehicles is paying off for bus operators

Dear Editor, It is very good news to see bus use is rising in the West Midlands conurbation. (Post November 28).

Most people recognise the difficulties in operating an effective bus network on our crowded West Midlands roads, but a combination of much improved at-stop information (from Network West Midlands), a significant and ongoing investment in new vehicles by the operators and the volatility of fuel prices has created an environment in which people are at least prepared to try the bus as a transport option.

Of course there is still much to be done, but at least we are moving in the right direction.

Phil Tonks,
Operations Officer for England,
Bus Users UK.