Dear Editor, If a week is a long time in politics then a month-and-a-half must be an absolute eternity in journalism.
When I sat down six weeks ago to write a piece for your Agenda section on homelessness in the city, little could I have realised exactly how quickly my words would be superseded by events on the ground (The whole city can help to break homeless cycle, Post February 11).
In the cold chill of January, the YMCA's plans for an innovative housing scheme to replace our hostel, in partnership with Mercian Housing Association, seemed exciting, but risky. Would anyone actually believe us when we told them that a scheme based on work rather than worklessness could actually work? In the event I needn't have worried.
The ink was barely dry on my printer when representatives of Mercian and Birmingham YMCA met with officers from Birmingham City Council's housing strategy team to discuss our plan. Rather than blank stares, we were met with the reassurance that our plans dovetailed perfectly with the strategy that the city council was already energetically pursuing.
By the time of publication, the city council had submitted on our behalf a bid for a further £2.4 million of funding for the project, and by the beginning of this week I was sitting in front of a senior civil servant jointly presenting the case for Government funding with city council officers.
I'm delighted to report that we have received nothing but positive support from the city council and that their strategy is indeed to change the model of homeless provision across the city in ways similar to those I suggested in my article.
While the city council provides a very large target for journalists to aim their ire at, I think it's important to put on record that, on this occasion, the council already appears to be well ahead of those of us urging change.
Case for M6 widening not made
Dear Editor, Jerry Blackett is completely wrong to say the case for widening the M6 has been "established beyond doubt" (Hard luck as M6 shoulders Kelly's new road solution, Post March 5).
The case for widening was last examined in 2002 through the West Midlands to North West Multi Modal Study, which concluded that is was a matter of judgement whether a tolled three-lane motorway would be more reliable than a four-lane motorway with a lower toll. The study did not support widening without a toll and did not claim that would produce a reliable motorway.
It also concluded the widening option would increase CO2 emissions while the non-widening option would not.
At the time, the cost of widening the motorway was put at £670 million. The only significant change since then has been that the cost has risen to £2.9 billion and might well go up further in the future.
Yesterday Mr Blackett was calling for more funding for transport projects in the region following the decision of the local authorities not to pursue congestion charging, but when will he put two and two together?
If the Government spends the now astronomical sums it costs to widen motorways (and the M6 is only one), which generate traffic to clog up our towns and cities, they will not have money to support regional transport schemes. There is not an infinite pot.
We accept that Active Traffic Management is not the perfect solution but it represents a positive move away from large damaging road widenings.
There is no silver bullet to end congestion or reduce emissions, but one thing is clear, the future is in managing demand, not trying vainly to accommodate it, and the sooner everyone accepts that the better for us all.
Campaign to Protect Rural England
Free hospital parking - except for gas-guzzlers
Dear Editor, The Welsh authorities have surely got it wrong with their plans to provide free hospital parking (Wales bans costly hospital parking for patients and staff, Post March 4).
What will this do to reduce car dependency and congestion, and indeed their associated illnesses like obesity, stress, heart disease and cancers?
Aren't car emissions carcinogenic?
If people begrudge paying to park, what's wrong with a bus pass or a bicycle?
Wasn't the purpose of bus passes to make it more affordable for the able elderly to travel, if not to get a few cars off the road?
If anyone says cycling is not an option, what about the millions that cyclists raise for charities such as cancer research and heart disease?
Soccer hero Alan Shearer and TV presenter Adrian Chiles are set to cycle from Newcastle to London (via West Bromwich) over two days for charity.
What do all the whinging drivers contribute to the NHS? Don't tell me, they're taxed to the hilt. So are all the volunteers who work in healthcare.
If any driver should be entitled to free parking it should be those with small, low emission cars. The last ones to get it should be those with oversized, overweight, gas guzzlers.
If they can afford to waste fuel and the extra expense of luxury car insurance, then parking fees for a good cause should not be an issue.
Time for width and height restrictions on hospital car parks is it not? Let's call it carbon off-setting.
Let's back democracy in Iran
Dear Editor, It was great to see Lord Corbett's article regarding the injustice that surrounds the case of the main democratic Iranian opposition group, the People's Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (Outrageous for UK to back Iranian oppression, Post, March 4).
The Iranian regime is no longer simply a threat for the Iranian people, but the greatest world threat currently facing us.
At such a time we must support the PMOI and the Iranian people in bringing about democratic change in Iran, not hinder them. Labelling this group as terrorist was a truly shameful act of appeasement.
Now that two courts of law have found in favour of the PMOI. it is high time that this Labour Government removed the group from the UK terrorist list.
Terrorism legislation is there to be used for stopping terrorists, not assisting those such as the Iranian regime who commit such horrific crimes.
Great work Lord Corbett. Thank God there remain some people in Parliament who truly support what the British people want.
We all hope that the PMOI will soon be allowed to assist the Iranian people in the democratic change that they long for.
Line closure is puzzling
Dear Editor, I am a regular traveller on the Chiltern line between Solihull and Marylebone, especially on Sundays, usually two or three times per month.
I was surprised to note that in spite of the closure of the line during the week of Sunday February 3, the line has been closed every Sunday since between Warwick Parkway and Snow Hill.
On February 17, I believe, after the bus arrived at Parkway, it was necessary to change to a second bus through crowded streets to Leamington, causing a delay of 30 minutes to the service, which arrived at Marylebone about 1pm.
I am puzzled why these Sunday closures are necessary in view of the one week closure last month. What is the nature of the work on this section?
When travelling during the week, I noted that the extra tracks south of Tyseley seem to have been pulled up for 600 yards, and the crossover immediately south of the station is still in place, although trains do not slow and use the crossover north of the station.
I have noted that every Sunday up until Easter the Chiltern line is closed, as above, until Warwick Parkway.
May I assume that the line will be open on Easter Sunday and Monday March 23 and 24, and on the latter date, when previously the Saturday service has been in operation, that the last train to Birmingham, the 22.10, will operate as on normal weekdays?
I appreciate that the closure of the line is the decision of Network Rail and not Chiltern. Is it not possible to persuade Network Rail to reduce these continual Sunday closures?
In earlier days, there was much less line closure and single-line working was used. Additional crossovers (eg south of Solihull) might assist this.
I note that in the past six months, the timetable as published for Sunday has only been in operation for about three weeks around the end of the year 2007/2008. It is quite unsatisfactory for passengers, especially as it makes day travel to various parts of London unduly long.
I suggest that representations be made to Network Rail.
Why all the fuss over 'hero' Harry?
Dear Editor, The whole of the world is laughing at us over the Harry affair. If terrorists were really after him I am sure he would be safer in Afghanistan than he is in England where everyone seems to know the clubs he frequents.
Harry, right, has been out in Afghanistan, not on the front line. There is no front line in Afghanistan. He has been in the desert regions, where one can see a rabbit approaching for miles, and he was only there for 10 weeks.
Men were away from home for over six years in the last war, and the boys in Afghanistan and Iraq must be curling their toes over the publicity hero Harry has been treated to.
My demob was delayed for six months because the Army didn't have a replacement for me able to fill job I was doing. How is it, if Harry's job in Afghanistan is so important, that he has been able to be released within a few hours?
How on earth could Harry's life be in danger more than any other soldier? If it was Harry the enemy was after, how would they spot him, with all of that sand surrounding him and all the soldiers looking the same in their gear?
If Harry was an air-to-ground coordinator, what was he doing being filmed carrying a gun, walking through derelict buildings and firing, while sitting on the ground, at an unknown and unseen target?
Was he just there to make a documentary?
NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED
Dear Editor, I commend you for publishing Lord Corbett of Castle Vale's article.
Our Government's appeasement of the Iranian regime for the past two decades has been an absolute disgrace. The Iranian people deserve better than the litany of public hangings, stoning and torture practised by their evil and despotic rulers.
The Iranian people have a resistance movement which is over-whelmingly supported by the Iranian people who crave freedom and democracy in their homeland.
It is high time we gave them our support rather than stand in their way.
Keep up the good work.