Dear Editor, Now the West Coast mainline has been rebuilt, rail users will expect action on New Street. And this has to go beyond the plans already announced for rebuilding the station to looking at the whole issue of its place in the network, already the subject of a full Panorama documentary.

The fundamental problem with New Street is the lines leading out, particularly to the West Coast mainline itself.

To the north, congestion is almost legendary and with only two lines through the Black Country to Wolverhampton, this will remain the case until there is a widening of the line. This should be possible as there are few interests close to the line to object. The southern line to Rugby is a much more controversial issue as houses and other facilities are close to the track.

But there is little point in spending half a billion pounds on the station if the tracks out of New Street remain blocked.

One of my earliest memories is of waiting in stationary carriages in the North Tunnel, and that was in the days of steam half a century ago.

Today we have diesel, electric and computing technology, yet still trains wait in the North Tunnel - even on a Sunday afternoon! Unless the bottlenecks are removed, New Street will remain the biggest blot on the entire rail network.

Trevor Fisher,
Lovatt Street, Stafford.


West Brom shareholders not against chairman’s prudent approach

Dear Editor, The plight of Christopher Nicholas and his wife as set out in their published letter Thursday, December 18, epitomises a principal concern of the Independent Shareholders’ Group in their recent petition against Jeremy Peace and the Board of West Bromwich Albion Holdings Limited.

The recent interim hearing in the High Court was an application for an injunction to prevent the resolution to consolidate the shares (10-1) passed at the AGM in November, entirely on the voting strength of the chairman’s shareholding from being put into effect.

The petitioners’ case was this resolution was unfairly prejudicial to a large proportion of the minority shareholders particularly those who only held one or two shares and were unable to afford the uplift payment to avoid being disenfranchised of their shares.

The judge refused an interim injunction, finding Jeremy Peace and the board were motivated by the club’s interests in such consolidation by eliminating the administrative costs of a large number of minority shareholders. I believe this to be an extraordinary finding.

The judge made a further finding in another aspect of the case, that the board in issuing 9,075 shares to the chairman on September 26, 2008, did so principally to raise funds, notwithstanding the chairman’s letter to shareholders dated October 30, 2008, made no mention of such matters.

I emphasise the complaints of the independent shareholders were confined to above issues of unfair prejudice and corporate governance, and despite comments seeming to emanate from the board, no criticism has been or was made of the chairman’s sensible and financially prudent policies in the running of the football club. Whether such policies will ultimately prove to be beneficial when applied to a football club attempting to remain in the Premiership may be doubtful, particularly when such constraints are linked to a manager who, while adopting a commendable football philosophy, ignored pundits who advised against signing a plethora of ball playing midfielders of limited height at the expense of an experienced ball winner midfielder and a quality striker. The immediate fiscal saving in refusing to meet Kevin Philips’ far from outrageous demands without having signed the necessary replacement is now shown to be false economy. The manager shows some contrition by acknowledging such errors and probably should be allowed further time, although many managers have been shown the door for lesser failings.

David Billings,
Kissing Tree Lane, Alveston, Stratford-upon-Avon.


Memories needed of Birmingham’s very own Hollywood star

Dear Editor, I am considering a research project on the late great character and Hollywood actor Alan Napier.

Alan, born in Harborne in 1903, was a relative of the great Birmingham Chamberlain family and graduated from Clifton College in Bristol in the 1920s.

He then trained at Rada and went on to join The Oxford Players, where he worked with future greats such as Robert Morley and Sir John Gielgud.

Alan was one of the early Hollywood stars who joined the British community there in the 1930s with the likes of Sir Laurence Olivier, Leslie Howard and the Lye born actor Sir Cedric Hardwicke. One of his first roles was in The Ghost Of Frankenstein in the early 1940’s with Sir Cedric. I have already written a book about Sir Cedric which is now in Lye Library and I mention Alan briefly in that.

Alan appeared in many more films over the years, such as Hangover Square in 1945. He also starred with greats of the silver screen, one in particular being Van Johnson in Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo in 1944. Alan appeared in the Hitchcock classic Marnie in 1964 and then went on to reinvent himself as the butler Alfred in the cult TV show Batman with Adam West and Burt Ward during the late 1960s. I wondered if anyone has any memories of Alan in Birmingham, ever met him via his family or have their own thoughts on him in this cult TV series.

Ian Payne,
Thornbury Road, Walsall.