Dear Editor, The government has washed its hands of implementing a national road-pricing scheme, instead trying to force local authorities to take responsibility by offering decent transport investment in exchange for employing a form of transport charge. Manchester's leaders appear to be keen on adopting the congestion charge with Whitehall reciprocating by making funds available, and Nottingham is receptive to the idea of a workplace parking levy.
The pros and cons of the congestion charge are well-discussed by the West Midlands and Greater Manchester councils.
However, the fact remains that, if ratified, Greater Manchester will receive £1.2 billion in "Transport Innovation" funding. It will also receive (and have to pay back) an additional £1.8 billion transport loan, will benefit from the extra investment in public transport and will feel the positive and negative effects of the congestion charge.
Greater Manchester will therefore have a much more comprehensive public transport network of modern trains, trams, buses and interchanges.
But instead of taxing those who need, or opt, to travel by car into our town and city centres, surely the way forward is using public transport to persuade those who do not need to use their car from doing so, and making access to the city centre more difficult for cars.
This can be done by using bus and tram lanes to limit vehicular access to the centre, by further pedestrianising our town and city centres thus restricting the through-flow of traffic and encouraging people to move around by foot, by giving public transport priority at junctions, by providing clean, efficient, affordable and safe public transport, and by enabling easy transfer from one mode to another using an equivalent to London's Oyster Card. The local transport body should also be overhauled and modelled on Transport for London - private companies then compete via tenders to provide services rather than competing on the road.
A fundamental part of the future of local transport has to be the Metro. Some parties (including Birmingham City Council if its non-participation in paying for a director to spearhead the expansion is anything to go by), seem to be unwilling to acknowledge that virtually every great European city has a light rail system which permits frequent unhindered access between the city centre and the suburbs.
A tram network that connects the major suburban centres to the city centre would not only encourage people to walk to their convenient tram stops and move large numbers of people around quickly, it would also spearhead regeneration in those suburban centres and breathe life into High Streets seemingly distant from the city centre. The bus network can be re-designed to complement the tram system and serve those suburbs where trams are not present.
The challenge is clear - Birmingham and the Black Country desperately needs to agree, fund and implement a connected multi-modal public transport system that serves its population well and moves it around quickly and efficiently. If it doesn't, then not only will the population and business suffer from the effects of congestion, the city and region will fall behind Greater Manchester in competitiveness, stature and ultimately economy. This can only be achieved by speaking with one voice, agreeing to a transport plan for the area and using the collective power of the local authorities, businesses and lobby groups to obtain funding, perhaps by means of a loan from the government but with no obligation to introduce an expensive-to-administer, draconian congestion charge. The important decisions need to be taken by those elected by us to take them.
Matthew P Bott
Liberty will be safeguarded -not threatened
Dear Editor, I do not understand those politicians who keep informing us that the liberties of the nation will be damaged by increasing the period of retention for suspected terrorists to 42 days.
Had it not been increased from seven days to 28 days then the police consider that further atrocities may have been committed by individuals they would have had to release.
I would rather accept the necessity for 42 days retention with safeguards, than have to listen to apologies from politicians and the leader of Liberty when terrorists who had been released under the original 28 days retention period went on to commit atrocities.
Everyone is born innocent but thousands develop into criminals and many of those individually commit numerous crimes before being arrested and others are never caught.
A database containing both births and immigration DNA would in my opinion, solve and eliminate a high proportion of crimes. It would also make many individuals reflect before breaking the law.
I am one of those individuals whose liberty is apparently threatened. They can place a camera facing my front door, take my DNA sample, and give me an identity card. I will then consider that my liberty has been safeguarded not threatened. Only law-breakers and terrorists are affected by these precautions.
Dear Editor, The Royal visit to the Severn Valley Railway (Post 11 June) is a well deserved recognition of the tremendous achievement of all those involved in restoring the line to full operation following the major disaster of last years floods.
Perhaps you would be good enough to advise your reporter that steam locomotives do not have "horns" ~ they have whistles ~ operated by steam!