SIR – It is being suggested that the Birmingham-to-Manchester leg of HS2 will indeed be scrapped (report, telegraph.co.uk, October 2).
This was always a grandiose scheme based on politics, not common sense. The original budget bore no relation to reality.
When I worked in Manchester I frequently travelled to London for meetings. The journey took a mere two hours, though this left ample time for a good breakfast and consideration of the meeting agenda.
While I would have appreciated an extra half-hour in bed, I’m not sure it would have been worth the billions of pounds required to complete the Manchester link.
SIR – It appears the Government now intends to ditch the partially completed high-speed rail project that would have linked England’s three largest cities – London, Birmingham and Manchester. Taxpayers will want to know the wastage costs of doing this. Such a move will also throw doubt on any claim that we are still a major player in the commercial world.
Meanwhile, we will be left with a truncated railway line of little use to anyone, which will require massive subsidies to be maintained even in a semi-mothballed state.
SIR – HS2 and net zero both exemplify Britain’s approach to major projects, which begin with lofty ideals and then descend into the weeds.
Such projects are hamstrung by nebulous objectives, which are found to be unachievable, so the specification changes until any purpose is lost. Much of the country becomes uninterested or even hostile, so conflicting statements are made to supporters and detractors in an attempt to sell a compromise. The costs spiral, while those in charge of the project double down, but it becomes clear that the plan is full of holes and money is leaking away. By this point, however, the project is supposedly too big to abandon.
The phases of these projects may be summarised as: enthusiasm, disillusionment, panic, search for the guilty, punishment of the innocent and – finally – praise and honours for the non-participants. With both HS2 and net zero, we are in the “panic” phase.
Great Malvern, Worcestershire
SIR – Politicians should give some thought to the businessmen who built the early railways. They would have had no idea that their investments would still be serving the country 200 years later.
No doubt, back then, the developers worried about the initial cost, as modern-day politicians worry about HS2, but the long-term benefits are now clear for all to see.
D J Neale
Water bill blow
SIR – The news that water companies are applying to Ofwat to increase bills by 35 per cent by 2030, in order to pay for leak repairs and the sewerage crisis, is an insult to consumers (report, October 2).
What have companies been doing with the money they have received over the years, and why has the regulatory body let them get into this state? It should be noted that pay rises and bonuses for senior water company staff have continued.
Why should the customer have to pay for all this waste and incompetence?
SIR – The original justification for water privatisation was that it was necessary for raising the capital required to fix our Victorian water infrastructure.
Thirty years later and water companies now seek a further rise in bills to deliver what they promised all those years ago.
Phones in schools
SIR – Schools are to be told to ban pupils from using mobile phones (report, October 2).
It is astonishing that they do not already do this. That these devices are a potential distraction is blindingly obvious. It should be standard practice that pupils hand them in on arrival and have them returned at the end of the day.
SIR – The problem with banning mobile phones in schools is that it is challenging to enforce such measures effectively.
Phones are much more than messaging devices; they are used to find out the time and set calendar reminders, for example.
We need our young people to be tech-savvy and to learn how to use their devices appropriately. Where better to learn than at school, under the supervision and guidance of staff?
Headmistress, Portsmouth High School
Paying for parking
SIR – One parking app for the whole of Britain is a good idea (report, September 30) but a great many motorists would prefer it if all parking meters still took cash.
Even with a single app, there will be hackers and glitches in the system. These things are not a risk with coins or paper money. There will also be individuals for whom downloading and using the app is confusing. When people are confused about how to use something, they avoid it.
Parking apps used to be a convenient option. We were never actually forced to use them – yet now, in more and more places, there is no choice. The message is: “Use our app or go away.” Well, goodbye, then.
SIR – Discussing bath-sharing, Janet Milliken (Letters, October 2) says her husband sat at the tap end. I had to do this, too – but then we invested in a “double ender”, with taps in the middle.
All major decisions are discussed with fizz. We call it bubbles and bubbles.
Brading, Isle of Wight
Welby’s pulpit politics
SIR – You report that the spokesperson for the Archbishop of Canterbury is critical of the Home Secretary’s reluctance to meet him to discuss the migrant crisis (September 30).
I would raise two points: firstly, Justin Welby used the privilege afforded by his pulpit on last year’s Easter Day to criticise the Government’s policy of sending migrants to Rwanda. Secondly, the Church appears to offer no realistic alternative solution to the issue.
Under the circumstances, I quite understand the Home Secretary’s decision to not meet him.
SIR – You’d think everything was ticketyboo in the Church of England from the way the Archbishop of Canterbury delights in meddling in everything else.
Falling church attendance; mushrooming CofE hierarchy; the growing spiritual vacuum in society: these are the things he should be focusing on.
Strength in sobriety
SIR – I read with interest Bryony Gordon’s column “Things I wish I’d known when I first tried to give up the booze” (October 2). Having just celebrated my 35th year of sobriety, much of what she writes still resonates with me today.
I agree that many alcoholics in recovery (which is how I will always consider myself) stigmatise themselves by believing they are somehow weak-willed or lack self control.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth; the energy, dedication and single-mindednesses of purpose that many of us required to sustain an alcoholic lifestyle was monumental.
My most profound lesson from rehab, was that I could use that same determination to start and maintain a sober existence.
A holiday from Today
SIR – I now listen to the BBC World Service where there is a plethora of intelligent, researched and thoughtful interviewing on a wide variety of topics (Letters, September 28). I urge everyone else bored with ‘Today’ to give themselves a treat and try it.
Football is scoring an own goal with Var
SIR – The weekend fiasco at Liverpool has highlighted what a mess the current VAR system is (report, October 1). It takes an interminable amount of time and is often wrong.
It’s time they looked to rugby and cricket, where the process is quick and the deliberation heard by spectators.
SIR – The recent furore regarding VAR misjudgements is missing the point. The offside rule is ridiculous, outdated, unnatural for the game and rejects skilful goal scoring.
In 1987-88, the old Conference League experimented by making it impossible for a player to be offside from a direct free kick or corner. Despite generating more excitement, the change was not adopted.
Let’s have an experimental season with no offside for the Premier League, to engender alternative tactics, encourage skill and reduce controversy.
Doctors need more training, not just more pay
SIR – The industrial action by junior doctors should be resolved not only by a reasonable pay rise but also a complete overhaul of their training and working conditions.
The slavish adherence by the NHS to the European Working Time Directive destroyed the system whereby a junior worked for one or two seniors for at least six months, receiving practical training on the job.
This was especially important in surgical specialties. Surgery cannot be learnt from a book, and certainly not by someone who spends one week in three on night shifts, covering multiple wards with patients about whom they know nothing.
David Nunn FRCS
West Malling, Kent
SIR – I envy Simon Cook’s GP practice experience (Letters, October 2). My GP practice, by contrast, seems determined to keep face to-face consultations to an absolute minimum, with the patients’ waiting area usually empty.
Making contact with my surgery presents further problems: the practice has a centralised phone system serving multiple surgeries, meaning patients phoning in can be in a queue of 30 to 40 people, with a waiting time of often half an hour or more. Email and text messages sent to patients are usually of the “No reply” type.
The practice has succeeded in erecting a wall of IT that distances it from patients. Is this what our health service wants? It’s certainly not what patients want.
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