Dear Editor, I would like to respond to the leader column in Monday’s paper commenting on the Gateway project at New Street and the House of Commons Transport Select Committee’s concerns over long term rail capacity at the station.
As the region’s passenger transport authority, Centro believes that the Gateway scheme is absolutely the right thing for New Street as it will increase passenger capacity and address the problem of overcrowding.
We also believe that New Street Station is in exactly the right place and that the long distance railway should not be going anywhere else in Birmingham. New Street is, in effect, the hub of the nation’s rail system and should remain so. That’s why Gateway is so important.
In the medium term, Gateway will be able to cope with much longer trains which will help us provide the extra capacity needed.
However, we agree that the growth in demand for rail is now rising far faster than previously forecasted.
This faster rate of growth justifies our ambition to build the proposed Camp Hill Chords project as soon as possible. This project involves the construction of new train tracks and points to allow certain services to be routed into Birmingham Moor Street Station thereby freeing up capacity and allowing performance improvements at New Street.
The rapid growth in demand for rail also illustrates the pressing need for extra transport capacity within Birmingham. That’s why Centro, together with its partners, is working towards providing a world class integrated public transport system incorporating rail, rapid transit and bus. This network will enable local journeys to be made in a different way and without the need to use the main platforms at New Street.
In the longer term, many local services could therefore be taken out of New Street, freeing up further capacity so that the station can cater for the anticipated growth in rail referred to in the Select Committee’s report.
For now, however, it’s important that New Street Gateway advances as fast as possible in order to solve the acute passenger capacity issues that already exist at the station and which threaten to constrain growth in the short term.
Geoff Inskip, chief executive Centro
Chips can be part of a healthy diet - and nothing reconstituted
Dear Editor, I was surprised and disappointed by the cynical and inaccurate journalism that formed the basis of the Brian Dick column recently. Although you pointed out that McCain makes good, simple food; and that we believe leading an active life is just as important as enjoying healthy food, your suggestion that McCain uses reconstituted potato in its chips is wholly inaccurate.
There is no reconstituted potato used in any McCain-branded chips and our Oven Chips are simply made using potatoes which are cut and prepared in sunflower oil; contain just 5 per cent fat; and less than 1 per cent saturated fat.
Our £5 million sponsorship of UK Athletics over the next five years will have a significant impact on the development of athletic talent in the UK and will increase the opportunities for people of all ages to get involved and, more importantly, get active.
We hoped, given the significance of Birmingham for the athletic world, your publication would have looked for the good that this partnership can bring.
We would like to invite your sports reporter to take part in one of our Track and Field days in the coming months so they can see the very real benefits the partnership will bring and maybe even meet some potential athletics champions of the future.
Bill Bartlett, Corporate Affairs Director
Long-term homes strategy not impossible
Dear Editor, You are right to highlight the support we are putting in place for consumers and industry in the current market conditions, but wrong to suggest that long-term housebuilding plans could be impossible.
Long-term demand for homes is going to increase, not decrease, in the West Midlands because of the fundamental mismatch between supply and demand, and our growing and ageing population.
And by planning and investing today, we can help the housing market to recover more swiftly once it does start to pick up.
The development industry has shown before it is capable of responding and delivering substantial increases in new homes over a short period – from around 130,000 net additions in 2001/02 to approaching 200,000 in 2006/07.
We need now to retain our focus on stimulating market conditions, seeking new ways to deliver the housing this country urgently needs and ensuring there is a planning framework that will support a rapid market recovery.
Caroline Flint MP, Housing Minister
On the brink of famine
Dear Editor, The current situation in East Africa caused by high food prices, poor rains, conflict and chronic poverty has left millions of people in need of emergency assistance.
Oxfam is there and responding to the crisis and I write to ask your readers to give their support.
At a time when food prices are making news headlines almost daily what we are seeing in East Africa is a part of the world that could be on the brink of the first global food price famine.
Oxfam are working throughout East Africa but we need the support of the public to maximise the emergency assistance that is so desperately needed.
Anyone who can make a donation should go to www.oxfam.org.uk or call 0300 200 1300 or send a cheque to East Africa Crisis, Oxfam, John Smith Drive, Oxford, OX4 2JY.
Staff in Oxfam shops are also accepting donations for the East Africa crisis.
Georgia Stokes, Oxfam Midlands