Letters January 7 2016
PUBLISHED: 10:43 07 July 2016 | UPDATED: 10:43 07 July 2016
Reason not excuse
SIR - It is not right to say that driver shortages was Thameslink’s “excuse” for recent cancellations (front page story December 31). It was the “reason”. Excuse implies we’re saying this to hide another underlying fact – but we’re not. Thameslink is being open and honest about the reasons behind the delays. It’s not particularly comfortable explaining that some trains had to be cancelled over the Christmas period for this reason but it was the right thing to do and the right thing to also explain to passengers what we are doing about it – by recruiting and training many more drivers. We could not be doing this any more quickly but it does take time – a year for each driver and we can’t train them all in one go. We are extremely sorry for what happened and we have more information on our website thameslinkrailway.com/drivers.
ROGER PERKINS Media Relations Manager Thameslink
Wrapping up religious debate
SIR - The dichotomy of views expressed in these pages over recent weeks on societal attitudes to homosexuality in the church say less about the issue itself and more about differences in our fundamental world views. As such, a resolution will never be reached by focussing on this specific source of controversy. The secularist view that we are on our own and not accountable to any outside, higher force, maintains that society’s attitudes to personal morality can only be based on consensus. This is the situation in a liberal democracy such as currently exists in the UK today. A mono-theist, whether Christian, Jew or Muslim, would maintain that God, who is outside of ourselves, is ultimately responsible for our existence and we, therefore, are accountable to that God as revealed through their respective holy book. Integral to this world view is that there are extrinsic moral absolutes (right and wrong). Regardless of our personal viewpoint, most people would agree that we cannot categorically prove or disprove the existence of God and, therefore, there is little to be gained by demeaning the argument by denigrating people personally (whatever ‘side’ they are on) or having their motives or intellect impugned. Both world views have a logical consistency and, in that sense, are equally valid. Where I would humbly suggest there is a philosophical problem is with the ‘third way’ which maintains that Christianity can be based on what is revealed in the Bible of God’s love and forgiveness while ignoring the equally dominant theme of God’s holiness and our accountability to him for how we live.
DR JON STORKEY Harness Way, St Albans
‘Do I reallly want to sell my house?’
SIR - I am indebted to the various estate agents who have helpfully enquired as to whether I have thought about selling my house. Without their wonderfully uninvited correspondence falling through my letterbox on such a frequent basis, it is quite possible that the idea of moving would not have crossed my mind! It seems incredible to me that this form or marketing is considered to be cost-effective, and not actually counter-productive. I cannot believe that a home-owner will consider such a major decision based on a glossy flyer. If an estate agent expects its name to be stuck onto the fridge and therefore at hand when the decision is taken, then this is a high-risk tactic. I expect most of these unwelcome bits of card are moved straight to the recycle bin, and if a name is remembered, it may be black-listed as a potential agent because of their thoughtless, unplanned and wasteful blanket marketing campaign. Maybe I should be “returning to sender”.
N HAWKINS Runcie Close, St Albans Global warming - theories and options
SIR - Can I take this opportunity to respond, in the interests of balance, to your recent letter from St Albans Friends of the Earth. Firstly the so-called dangerous level of carbon dioxide quoted at 400 PPM. In Earth’s history it has been several thousand parts per million but didn’t cause runaway global warming then. Indeed CO2 always follows warming rather than drives warming. Always has. Now the one degree warming claim. This is an interesting one. For many years now the basis period for temperature anomaly has been the 1960 to 1990 period. Though this was in itself a somewhat cool period, the past 17 years have been without any increase in temperature. This is not a good sound bite for politicians and activists so they changed it to 1800-1900 an even colder period just out of the Little Ice Age! A strong El Nino effect similar to the one in 1998 was a gift. Despite all this it is still not as warm as AD 41 for instance, one of many pre-industrial years that was warmer than today.. Sadly only those stories that support the mantra that man is bad, it’s all our fault, seem to get coverage. It’s why you probably don’t know that in the USA it’s been a record low for hurricanes and a few years ago the global temperature fell by 1 degree!
C KEECH Flamsteadbury Lane, Redbourn
SIR - Politicians from around the world are signing up to act to limit global warming. Getting goods off the roads onto rails is a step towards that goal, but that can only work if there are transfer stations near to the end market to get the goods to the shops. A recent TV programme about BMW Mini manufacturing said that they sent two trains/day, each carrying 300 cars, and another 400 delivered by road, with each car transporter carrying 11 cars. That means that each train is saving 27 car transporter loads and reducing harmful exhaust fumes from those lorries.
DAVID STONEBANKS Chequers Bridge Road, Stevenage
Flaws in plans for fly-tipping fines
SIR - Re: plans for a fixed penalty notice for fly-tipping - what is the point of an FPN unless the miscreant is present on site and willing to accept the officially handed notice? Any would-be fly-tipper worth his or her salt would spend a few moments checking the surroundings before dumping the load; after all getting a fine would spoil the fun of the game. In all the years of reporting fly-tipping in the lanes around St Albans I have never yet found any evidence which would point to the origins of the material and the possibility of a prosecution. The only effective means of catching the fly-tippers is the presence of CCTV cameras activated by movement but sufficiently well-hidden that they don’t attract the anti-social air rifle owners. I appreciate the high cost of these cameras but am also aware of the high cost of removing the dumped material.
JACK HILL Riverside Close, St Albans
Why busway scheme just wouldn’t work
SIR - Recently Terry Jackson wrote, in praise of guided busways (GBW), as an option for the Abbey Line. The concept is deeply flawed. Outside the UK there are few. Only we perversely opt for them, lead by politicians who believe buses are cheaper than railways, but ignoring the fact they ran on free highways. The world’s first substantial GBW was built in Essen, Germany and soon after another in Adelaide, Australia. The transport select committee thought they should be examined as a future transport option. “Lets go see look at one,” said a member? Which did they choose? A day trip to Essen, or the one Down Under? Remember it was at taxpayers’ expense. Hands up anyone naive enough to think it was the daytrippers who won? Yes Oz got the thumbs up. On their return a worthy tome was published suggesting a couple of trials here. The Eastern Regional (Go-East) now thankfully abolished, volunteered both, Cambridge to St Ives and Luton to Dunstable. Terry has indeed used the latter on his bus pass, the villages he noted it serves are ironically the old stations sited on the outskirts. The new services in that respect mirrors the rail service which was criticised as not being convenient for passengers! Large car parks are now at many locations! It may not be known to our transport planners that Essen was an experiment paid by their federal government. So successful that parts had to be dismantled, the experiment was never repeated in Germany, Essen remains unique and an isolated museum piece! But how would MPs know this basic fact if they didn’t take a day trip to ask? The Adelaide example was similarly never extended and again one can only assume the right questions were not asked? Meanwhile in the UK despite extensive opposition the two schemes were built on closed railway lines more than capable of being re-opened at a fraction of the cost. Cambridge was very late and very much over budget, we are talking about £64m which crept up to a final figure of £152m with £30m in remedial repairs needed following poor construction. Despite the same contractor and supposedly “learning the lessons,” Luton was similarly late, well over budget and doesn’t even go where it was claimed on the prospectus, i.e. the airport. The similarities continue, to gain acceptance the possible usage of both and the shift from cars was exaggerated. In the case of Luton this was an understatement of mega proportions, the use after a year was just 41 per cent of that anticipated. The council leader had to apologise on the media for “massaging the figures to get the grant.” Locally all the Abbey Line needs to make a real difference is a passing loop costed at £7.5m this would make for fixed interval trains not the irregular system at present. Regular use could not fail to increase. Conversion to a GBW however would easily outweigh Cambridge-St Ives in costs, perhaps over £200m. All services would be removed for some years to allow construction with end dates highly fluid. Whereas a railway loop would not disrupt services to the same degree and keep options open including easy access London Underground when they are diverted into Watford Junction, work has started. Hertfordshire must be congratulated for rejecting the GBW idea, maybe they bothered to take a day trip to Essen or a visit to Luton? Meanwhile I understand the county has well over £52m in reserves. Even though GBW have failed to deliver as promised improvements to railways always exceed predictions. How about the county investing the £7.5m for the passing loop and have a pay back from the increased use?
LESLIE FREITAG Cravells Road, Harpenden
Measures to curb population growth
SIR – I was brought up in Redbourn during the 1950s and the 1960s. There was plenty of countryside then but now it is proposed to fill the countryside between Hemel Hempstead and Redbourn with houses etcetera. Loss of countryside means that farmers have to try to produce more from less land. Loss of wildlife habitat has already caused (for example) less birds than 50 years ago. The rise in the population of the UK (and of other countries) needs to be halted. Net immigration into Britain is now about 350,000 annually. The British government needs to have equal immigration and emigration between the UK and every other country in the European Economic community (and with every other country worldwide). Britain can do this unilaterally. One can allow each country in the EEC to set its own rules on immigration and emigration. The human population of Planet Earth has more than doubled during the past 50 years. Mass starvation would occur at some time if this trend continued. The Intra Uterine Device (IUD) is probably the best method of lowering the human birth rate. The IUD avoids the cruelty of abortion and avoids the tedium of the ‘Pill’.
WILLIAM BAXTER Pier Street, Aberystwyth
Why are my dogs banned from buses?
SIR – I am writing to complain about some of the bus drivers who keep refusing to let me on their buses with my greyhounds. They are rude, obnoxious or slam the doors in my face. They make the excuse that they have allergies – greyhounds are hypoallergenic and do not upset people with allergies. I take my dogs to the market, village vets and Hatfield Nursing Home to visit the elderly. I report the drivers who won’t take us. I have also sent all the information to the UNO boss and he has done nothing about it. The bus I get is the UNO 653. Without the bus I cannot take my dogs to the vets or anywhere – I need the buses. I hasten to add not all drivers are like it. I have had some lovely drivers but the others spoil it for the rest of the drivers that do let the dogs on.
MARION G FOSTER Arundel Grove, St Albans
Time to build new council housing
SIR - It’s that time of year. The time for resolutions, which, if pursued with determination, can change our lives for the better. So, here’s one for the politicians, of whatever complexion, to change the lives of thousands of people locally and millions nationwide - start building council homes again! The unemployed, the underpaid, the physically disabled, people with mental health issues, the innocents in broken families, and so many other deserving cases, are being left to flounder in despair without a roof over their head that they can afford without support. It is a scandal. Successive governments of right and left have turned their back on the disadvantaged and have even created a new class in society who view the future with despair - our children, so many of whom, stepping out into adulthood, cannot afford to buy a home and will struggle to met the demands of private landlords. Governments promote giveaway right to buy policies with callous disregard for those who cannot afford to buy and now have decreasing hope of a home to rent from a caring society. “Affordable housing” is not affordable for the poorest among us. The term is camouflage for a cynical lack of action. Housing associations, of course, are under-funded and now they, too, are under pressure to sell their stock. Responsible local authorities should demand government support to raise through taxes the funds they require to build the homes their citizens need. These would be homes that could not be sold as a “right” but might be transferred over time to those who earn the privilege to buy a share of home ownership through sensible tenancy. Paying slightly higher taxes now is surely not too high a price to pay to give our children hope for the future. Most of us can afford it. Has anyone a better idea?
JOHN COLE Mile House Close, St Albans
Market was better than expected
SIR - I am writing in response to the recent negative comments made in your paper regarding the St Albans Christmas Market and would like to give an alternative view. I write as a trader who had a chalet at the market for the first time this year and who found that it exceeded both my hopes and my expectations. The setting for the market was simply wonderful and the layout, with ample width temporary walkways, made accessibility to all stalls really easy. I had heard comments from friends that in past years access was difficult with very narrow and sometimes muddy paths. That was certainly not the case this year and there was always support on hand from Richmond Event Management (who constructed the market and ran it on behalf the council) to iron out any problems. I traded for all 25 days of the market and there was certainly discontent from some of the traders that the number of visitors was low. The damp and wet weather for much of the period obviously didn’t help, but they also laid the blame for this at SADC for lack of advertising. I always try to engage with the visitors (they are all potential customers) and those I spoke with were a good mix of locals and visitors from much further afield. Many of the locals seemed to make repeat visits throughout the three weeks, so they obviously thought the market worth coming back to. Those that had travelled some distance had heard about it from their friends or read about it in their local papers or the Sunday Times, so I believe the advertising done by SADC had been effective.Obviously, more advertising would always be better, but we live in the real world and budgets are necessarily limited. We are, after all, talking about our own Council Tax. I know that the advertising was much wider than just newspapers and all I can say is that it seemed to work, so let’s have some praise for SADC, not just criticism. A good number of visitors that I spoke with had also come on coach tours. These again had been as a result of promotion by SADC. If I were to be honest, and at the risk of receiving a lot of flack, my main criticism would be with other traders. Weekdays were always going to be quieter than weekends, and some traders regularly opened late or closed early during the week, and some didn’t even turn up at all. This does nothing to promote the market, particularly as far as coach tour operators are concerned as the tours often arrived as the market opened. The visitors would doubtless return to their driver and complain that many stalls were closed, making the job for the council next year even harder. I was running my stall by myself, so opportunities to see the rest of the market were limited to brief necessary trips to the toilets as another trader kindly kept watch. However, even that was sufficient to see many traders sitting half-hidden in their chalets, on their phones, or standing around with earphones in. It hardly encourages the visitors to engage. I would like to finish by saying a big thank you to both SADC and REM for organising a successful event. Little in this world is perfect, and I know that there are already suggestions about how the market could be improved even further for next year. I have made my provisional booking and look forward to returning in 2016 to an even bigger and better event.
RICHARD HATTON Wotknots Woodturning Dancote, Knebworth
Some words of grateful thanks
SIR - Please would you pass on our sincere thanks to the wonderful folk of St Albans who have so generously donated to the charity YouthTalk over the Christmas period. Fleetville Harmony, a local a-cappella singing group, entertained shoppers in town and at the Christmas Market on December 5 and 12 with an upbeat mix of Christmas songs and carols all sung without instruments in glorious harmony. The singers were out again at St Albans City station to entertain weary workers on their way home. Over the three events, our wonderful locals donated an impressive £1,200 to YouthTalk – a charity founded by a local GP in 1997 after she realised there was a need for a safe place where young people could come for counselling and support. Since then, over 2,100 young people have used the service. If you would like to know more about this charity, please visit http://www.youthtalk.org.uk/ Many thanks to all who donated.
THE FLEETVILLE HARMONY SINGERS
SIR - May I through your columns please thank the people of St Albans and surrounding areas for supporting our charity recently. On December 9 we held an awareness stall at St Albans market, and also sold raffle tickets for a wonderful Christmas Hamper. We also held an Adopt a Teddy tombola which proved very popular, and we raised £200. The hamper was won by Emily - a listening volunteer with Samaritans of SW Herts. On Saturday December 19 we had several volunteers collecting throughout the market and we collected the incredible amount of £1,486.41. A huge thank you to everybody who donated which helps us to keep our branch running to provide emotional support whatever the time of year, by phone, email, text and face-to-face. We are available on 116 123 ( this number is free to call and will not appear on your phone bill), email at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.samaritans.org for more information.
SUZIE BRIND Publicity Officer Samaritans of SW Herts
SIR - Further to my letter published in the Herts Ad on December 17 I would like to say thank you to all who sent me letters of support. It seems that I am about to travel the same path as others have already trodden, to no avail. One suggestion to involve my MP of Harpenden and Hitchin I feel will have little success as I have already tried this route on other occasions. As I am a common man with limited funds I may fall on the same stony ground as others before me, but I can at least try.
MARK WARD Leasey Bridge Lane, Wheathampstead