Letters: Backtracking on HS2 now would be a betrayal of northern England

HS2 contractors excavate an area below a newly replaced section of the Aylesbury to Princes Risborough branch line
HS2 contractors excavate an area below a newly replaced section of the Aylesbury to Princes Risborough branch line - Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

SIR – Amid the uncertainty over HS2 (Letters, September 26), politicians appear to be prioritising the population living within a 50-mile radius of Piccadilly, London, over that within a 50-mile radius of Piccadilly, Manchester.

The powerhouse of the North should not be let down.

Richard A Hindle
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

SIR – I’ve spent my life running a successful business in the north of England, even though my customer base is in London.

I can’t quite see how Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, can argue that cancelling the HS2 London link would impede business growth in the North. We already have rail and motorway connections to London that work reasonably well.

Can Mr Burnham give a business example to show how HS2 would level up the North? It seems more likely to achieve the unintended consequence of favouring London.

Ian Maiden
Beaulieu, Hampshire

SIR – I live in Cheshire and have travelled to London on business once or twice a fortnight for 40 years, though far less now that virtual meetings are commonplace.

No one has ever given a logical explanation for how HS2 will level up the North. London is a global financial centre, and as such attracts businesses and investment.

Having another train service to the North might affect my trips but would not persuade Londoners to start commuting to Manchester. Investing in businesses there might, but transport won’t.

High-speed trains make sense in larger countries, but HS2 offers little value here. It’s time to scrap this vanity project, in its entirety, now.

G A Nicholls
Knutsford, Cheshire

SIR – Nigel Bayley (Letters, September 26) is “glad that our Victorian forefathers were made of sterner stuff and forged ahead with the many utilities we have today”.

In the Victorian era, most infrastructure – including the railways – was funded and built commercially. The simple business necessities of a legitimate requirement, good design and cost control kept things in check. This largely changed after the Second World War, when the state assumed control.

Richard Scott
Kirkbride, Cumbria

SIR – Lord Bamford (Letters, September 26) proposes a power cable system along the HS2 route.
It would also be worth considering  a grid system for water distribution, in order to help meet demand from any future housebuilding projects.

Stephen Bridgwater

Braverman on asylum

SIR – Suella Braverman, the Home Secretary, is to be applauded for her common-sense approach to asylum (“Braverman: 780 million ‘refugees’ shows rules must change”, report, September 26).

The UN Refugee Convention was framed in a totally different era, and is exploited today. Britain cannot sustain unlimited immigration, and I commend Mrs Braverman’s efforts.

Dominic Shelmerdine
London SW3

Turning off Today

SIR – Nick Robinson blames the reduction in the Today programme’s audience on “news avoiders” (report, September 26).

I used to enjoy listening to the show but gave up when the interviewing style became more aggressive, with the hosts constantly interrupting their guests as though trying to catch them out for a cheap sound bite.

I suspect other once loyal listeners have turned off for the same reason.

Paul Hutchence
Melksham, Wiltshire

SIR – I stopped listening to Today after noticing that, whenever a question was asked, the answer would be ignored, as the presenter had moved on to another question. What is the point of a show where you are only interested in the questions, not the answers?

Robert Ward
Loughborough, Leicestershire

Future of the Navy

SIR – Group Captain Jeffrey Turner (Letters, September 25) suggests that, because the Navy hoped to procure the F-35 for the Fleet Air Arm’s new carriers, this indicated a “change of direction for Royal Navy combat aviation”.

I doubt that. The Navy’s future contribution to Western power at sea will be to coordinate with other players such as the French, perhaps the Indians, and, of course, the US Navy. The ability to cross-operate with these and others, by turning up at a scrap with a deck that can be used by “cat and trap” operators, would be a huge advantage, quite apart from the Navy’s ability to acquire other less expensive fighters of its own (although the F-35 will be a superb asset).

I feel sure that the current unhappy situation is the result of purely financial considerations, and I hope it will be addressed.

J David Eagles 
Former Royal Navy fighter pilot
Taynton, Oxfordshire

Sport in schools

SIR – It is often claimed that school sport is essential for improving children’s physical and mental health (Letters, September 25).

The truth, however, is that team games simply allow the naturally able to show off, while the rest endure a freezing hour on a football field before being subjected to the indignity of compulsory communal showers.

A child’s exercise needs are the responsibility of parents, not the state, and in many cases could be fulfilled by the child walking to school instead of being driven. If parents want their children to take part in sport, they should arrange it via local clubs, which cater for all ages (and even 100 years ago were producing working-class stars of cricket and football, whose schools had no sporting provision).

The eye-watering amount spent on Britain’s education system should be devoted to meeting the intellectual needs of the nation.

John Sheridan Smith

Police under fire

SIR – I was a Met officer and authorised to carry a firearm for 20 years until 1993 (“Police chiefs fear spread of firearms walkout”, report, September 26). I was not part of a specialised unit, just one of the few authorised officers at a south London station.

On a cold New Year’s morning in 1980 I had to challenge a man I believed was armed with a gun and on his way to solve a family grievance. It was pitch dark and I couldn’t see his hands. Although I shouted “armed police” repeatedly, he was totally unresponsive, and disappeared down an alley between two houses.

I then saw two flashes and heard two bangs. I had been shot in the arm. I responded with three shots at where I had last seen him, but he had gone through a door.

During this whole episode – which probably lasted less than a minute – I was unaware of anything other than what was immediately before my eyes. I had to make a split-second decision. What happened to me happens to serving officers many times a year.

Afterwards, of course, multitudes of people in the Met hierarchy and justice system analyse, second by second, what happened, assisted by the officer’s body-worn camera. How that can take over a year is incomprehensible. How it can result in a charge of murder is beyond belief. My heart goes out to all the brave serving officers who are armed on duty.

Bob Ferris 
Banstead, Surrey

Standing charge sting

SIR – I received a lovely letter from British Gas informing me that my gas charges would be reduced from October. Sadly it went on to tell me that, while I have economised and kept my gas usage low, my bills will be higher, as the company has raised my standing charge.

John Kennedy
Hornchurch, Essex

Lawn of a new age

SIR – I sympathise with Thomas Wilkinson (Letters, September 26) over the difficulty of finding a dry day to mow the lawn.

I never thought I would succumb to robot mowers, but Martha – you have to give them a name for the app – has changed our lives. She gets up at 9.30am and mows all day until 6.30pm, so the grass never gets too long. You then run over the lawn if you want stripes.

Alexandra Elletson
Marlborough, Wiltshire

An item of evening wear that works wonders

A British naval aide’s cummerbund at last year’s Salute to Freedom gala in New York
A British naval aide’s cummerbund at last year’s Salute to Freedom gala in New York - Alamy

SIR – In the photographs I have seen of the recent state banquet at Versailles, I was unable to spot a single cummerbund. What a shame.

Not only does a cummerbund add a certain sartorial je ne sais quoi to a dinner jacket, but it also admirably holds in the middle-aged spread.

Timothy Martin
Nayland, Suffolk

Reasons to be thankful for the National Trust

SIR – I was sad to read of the problems at the National Trust (Features, September 24). However, I feel it is still a fabulous institution, given the scale of what the charity does, and the number of properties in its keeping.

Moreover, in Britain we fare far better than some. I recently visited the beautiful and historic area of Sintra, in Portugal, and was met with huge queues, poor organisation and a gift shop full of empty shelves. I kept thinking to myself: “This would never happen at a National Trust property.”

Marilyn Wathes
Witney, Oxfordshire

SIR – Constance Watson (Comment, September 23) is right that “permanent preservation” of Clandon Park is not achieved by the plan to keep it a ruin.

Clandon’s architect, Giacomo Leoni, has been exceptionally unlucky in the survival rate of his work, with the destruction of two major country houses he built in Lancashire, two in Essex and another in Sussex. If the National Trust has a truly responsible attitude to what it owns, is it not bound to preserve as far as is feasible what survives of Leoni’s work?

Tim Hudson
Chichester, West Sussex

SIR – Since time immemorial we have repaired our buildings unselfconsciously, and adapted and extended them in a sympathetic way. It is the beauty and cultural significance of the building that is of overriding importance, not the age or “authenticity” of the materials from which it is made.

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings’ philosophy of treating buildings as dry artefacts instead of living works of art is very destructive to our cultural heritage and should not be allowed to prevail at Clandon. The National Trust’s own website acknowledges that the Marble Hall is Giacomo Leoni’s masterpiece and one of the most dramatic entrance halls in the country from the early 18th century.

If necessary, some of the other lesser areas of the house can be left, but we must recreate the Marble Hall, restoring the key interior and providing the opportunity to train a new generation of craftsmen who, thereafter, will be available to look after our cultural heritage and create work of comparable quality.

Hugh Petter
Director, Adam Architecture
Winchester, Hampshire

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