Letters: Billions are poured into HS2 while Britain’s roads sink into disrepair

The amount spent by councils on filling potholes dropped from £144 million in 2015 to £96 million last year - Joe Giddens/pa
The amount spent by councils on filling potholes dropped from £144 million in 2015 to £96 million last year - Joe Giddens/pa

SIR – The Asphalt Industry Alliance’s claim that it would take nine years and £12.6 billion to fix all of England’s potholes (report May 24) represents excellent value compared to HS2.

Phil Sampson
Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire

SIR – Quick-fix pothole repairs are much more expensive, as they only last a few weeks (“Councils spending third less on potholes with ‘quick-fix repairs’”, report, May 27). In the long run it is cheaper to do the job properly. Surely councils can understand this.

Francis Moss
Bourne End, Buckinghamshire

SIR – I live in Herefordshire but work in Powys, which has the best roads for miles. I cross the border into Powys and drive on smooth roads with no potholes. If one appears, it is mended professionally.

Herefordshire, on the other hand, cannot do a good repair. Even when new tarmac is laid, the joints are not sealed correctly and water penetrates underneath. So why can Powys – a huge county with a small population – do good roads, but Herefordshire can’t? What’s wrong with Herefordshire? Does it spend the road-repairs money on other things?

First impressions count. Road safety counts. Potholes upset the braking distance, wear out car suspension, and drivers dodging them cause accidents. There are thousands of excuses, but the loss of one life due to badly maintained roads is too many.

Jeremy Kent
Weobley, Herefordshire

SIR – Recently my wife and I enjoyed a long weekend in Pembrokeshire and the Gower, covering 460 miles in a 70-year-old open MG, along with 40 other couples from different areas of Britain in similar cars. The contrast was quite amazing.

In Wales there were 20mph zones in most villages, with speed bumps, virtually no potholes, and polite driving standards, with no tailgating. In Herefordshire and Worcestershire the potholes were prolific and there was plenty of tailgating.

James Thacker
Tanworth-in-Arden, Warwickshire

SIR – Is it time for pothole avoidance to be included in the driving test?

Carey Waite
Melksham, Wiltshire

SIR – On a recent trip to Greece, from Athens to the Peloponnese and the port town of Nafplion, not once did we encounter potholes, even in the mountain regions.

Not a Greek tragedy, but a British one: all the roads in my locality are potholed and rammed.

John Chamberlain
Bangor, Caernarfonshire

SIR – We took a taxi to explore Madeira (Letters, May 12) and remarked on the rarity of potholes. “Oh,” said our driver, “if we report a pothole and nothing happens, we plant a palm tree in it.”

Merrilyn Boorman
Lenham, Kent

Lessons of Dunkirk

SIR – Eighty-three years ago this week the British Army was fighting for its life on the continent of Europe. Many had given up hope and expected their total surrender and capture.

Operation Dynamo – the Dunkirk evacuation – was begun, and between May 26 and June 4, 338,000 men were evacuated, saving the Army so it could fight another day. About 850 vessels of all shapes and sizes took part, and 240 were lost.

It was an amazing achievement. The evacuation succeeded because Britain possessed a Navy of incomparable size and capability. The German fleet, mauled during the Norwegian campaign, was powerless to intervene.

We must not allow the significance of a powerful navy to be written out of history. It is still vital for our nation.

Admiral Lord West of Spithead (Lab)
London SW1

Stuck on benefits

SIR – I have recently been helping a friend apply for a business start-up loan. He is a skilled jewellery manufacturer, and a Syrian refugee living on benefits. He was turned down for a loan despite submitting a carefully researched and conservative business plan.

A freedom of information request revealed that in the past year just 6.1 per cent of 136,000 applicants were successful. I wonder what the cost of running this unsuccessful operation is.

This is no way to help aspiring entrepreneurs to get off benefits (Letters, May 26).

John Pearson
Tunbridge Wells, Kent

Probate and housing

SIR – I am an executor for my mother’s estate and am selling a house she owned. I’m waiting for probate, which was submitted 10 weeks ago, and was told not to contact the department until 16 weeks had gone by.

In my mother’s street there are four houses for sale, at least two of which are waiting for probate. Multiply the number of streets in the country by two and you have thousands of empty homes waiting for new owners.

Perhaps the Government could speed up the probate department.

Christine Hopkins
Grantham, Lincolnshire

Cost of hearing

SIR – If a mobile phone costs £300, with all its tech, why do hearing aids cost £3,500 and last just five years?

Roger Smith

Horseshoe luck

SIR – The picture illustrating Tina Simmens’s letter (May 26) about Rutland was interesting because most people hang horseshoes upside down. Any luck that a horseshoe can bring can only be achieved by hanging it with the ends pointing up.

This is to present a holy arch through which the devil may not pass. The Worshipful Company of Farriers, with which I am connected, can confirm this.

Lord Newall
Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire

SIR – I was born in Ayston, a small village in Rutland (Letters, May 25). Our family home was in Hambleton, Rutland, for over 50 years.

When I was at boarding school, my letters to home were always addressed with Rutland in capital letters and Leicestershire in brackets.

Angela Sheppard

Tall shoppers

SIR – I am delighted that Janice Spencer (Letters, May 27) so enjoys a shopping trip to try on possible purchases. If only I had the chance.

As a woman of 6ft 1in, it is impossible to try clothes in shops as they have moved their “tall’ sections online – if they have them at all.

This requires clothes to be bought in advance of trying on, and anything unsuitable or ill-fitting to be returned at further expense.

This was exacerbated last year during my pregnancy, as clothes shops sometimes allow women to be pregnant, or tall, but very rarely both.

Miriam Gosling
Northstowe, Cambridgeshire

SIR – Janice Spencer’s preference for the pleasures of real shopping over doing it online put me in mind of the delightful Ryles department store in Whitley Bay, where, in 1979, my late mother-in-law went to find a suitable black hat for her husband’s funeral.

She was not at all well, and was rapidly found a seat on the ground floor so as not to have to tackle the stairs, while deferential assistants whizzed up and down from the ladieswear department on the upper floor, bringing her several hats to try, and she duly found one she liked.

This was clearly all in a day’s work to them, but much appreciated at the time. Could such service be found anywhere now, I wonder?

Christine Shepherd
Marlow, Buckinghamshire

Sewage discharge

SIR – In 2020 Mogden sewage works, which is owned by Thames Water, discharged 2,768 Olympic swimming pools’ worth of raw sewage into the Thames. This is quite disgraceful and must reinforce calls for the renationalisation of the water companies. Water and sewage are not things that should be left to the play of market forces or be put in the charge of commercially orientated organisations.

Andrew McLuskey
Ashford, Middlesex

Chip compromise

SIR – May I suggest to Judith Daniel (Letters, May 27) the following compromise to get tasty chips without home chopping: buy chips from a local chippy and loose freeze them in portion sizes. They heat up very successfully and are extremely tasty.

Ruth Calvert-Smith
Dulverton, Somerset

Evening entertainment interrupted by a whale

The tail of a humpback whale off the Samaná Peninsula in the Dominican Republic - alamy
The tail of a humpback whale off the Samaná Peninsula in the Dominican Republic - alamy

SIR – Serving on HMS Chichester in the Far East, we were watching a film on the quarterdeck one evening when we were struck by a whale (Features, May 25). It hit our starboard propeller while we were travelling at cruising speed. This knocked the projector off its stand and damaged it. We were en route from Perth, Australia to Singapore and had been at sea for a day only.

I was in charge of the sonar department and the captain asked me to investigate for anything unusual. I listened for a few minutes and reported the starboard propeller was making a loud clicking noise.

On arrival in Singapore we entered the floating dock for examination and discovered the starboard propeller was damaged slightly but enough to cause my crews not to be able to operate the sonar correctly and submarines to identify us easily.

Ultimately, we had to have a new propeller shipped from the UK, so it was an expensive collision.

Ivan Johnston
Dalston, Cumbria

Beware the natural enemy of wool insulation

SIR – Beware of moths. Some years ago a significant Whitehall building underwent an extensive refurbishment with a green focus. The new wool insulation (Letters, May 25)became an ideal incubator for clothes moths, much to the dismay of the workforce. The insulation had to be replaced, as moth eradication proved impossible. Unfortunately, natural products tend to have natural enemies.

Richard Booth
Ringmer, East Sussex

SIR – When my grandfather retired from farming in 1939 he built a house in which all the water pipes in the roof space were insulated with sheep’s wool, wrapped in hessian sacking and bound with binder twine.

These pipes have never frozen, not even in 1947 or 1962-3. What better recommendation does one want?

Christopher Pound
Sidmouth, Devon

SIR – Avril Wright (Letters, May 25) asks why people persist in buying man-made fibres instead of wool.

I am allergic to wool and also lanolin. Many people who suffer from skin conditions such as eczema are only able to wear man-made fibres, cotton or silk (if they’re wealthy enough).

Ann Attwell
Bury, Lancashire

SIR – Sadly, both of my parents died in the past two years, aged 96 and 99. My father worked for a wool dyers and spinners in Leicester and my mother loved all things comfortable.

When deciding upon their funeral arrangements, my brother-in-law suggested a woollen coffin. I cannot speak more highly of this choice: British-made, sustainable, beautiful and a fabulously comfortable send off.

Penny Neal

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