OPINION - The Standard View: After tanks decision, it’s now a race against time for Ukraine

 (Christian Adams)
(Christian Adams)

The tank transformed how wars are fought — and won. They were developed to end the stalemate of trench warfare in the First World War and have played a key role in countless conflicts since.

Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky has been pleading with the West to send his country 300 tanks to make a decisive breakthrough against Russia by unleashing a real “punching fist of democracy”. He is unlikely to get that many but, thanks to a change of heart in Berlin, he might receive enough to make a real difference.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz relented after intense pressure to lift a ban on German-built Leopard 2s being sent to Ukraine, and to directly supply the tanks himself. The US is now also set to send roughly 30 M1 Abrams tanks. Britain has already promised 14 Challenger 2s.

Russia, meanwhile, is digging in, using conscripts as cannon fodder. That is why the West must step up. It is now a race against time to transport the tanks to the right battlefields and ensure training is provided before any spring offensives the Russians have planned.

Mindful of its own history, Germany has understandably been cautious about how it uses its military capabilities. But now is the time to win the present to secure a peaceful and democratic European future.

A vital experiment

Rejoice or despair, depending on your perspective and street address. Hackney council is set to expand its Low Traffic Neighbourhoods across 75 per cent of the borough.

This newspaper has been cautiously supportive of LTNs. The aim of making residential areas and those near schools safer and cleaner is noble, but issues have often arisen when measures are rolled out overnight or in an ad hoc manner.

The most important question, of course, is “do they work?” And recent evidence suggests they do. The largest study of London schemes by Westminster University and the charity Possible this month found that LTNs have “substantially” reduced motor traffic in residential areas without having a significant impact on nearby main roads.

Hackney is undertaking an interesting experiment. We will be watching with interest.

Elizabeth Line fever

The Elizabeth Line is already a victim of its own success. Latest figures reveal that the line, which only opened in May, attracted 32 million more passengers than expected by December. One inevitable consequence is overcrowding, particularly on the way to Heathrow, as people switch from the Picadilly line and the Heathrow Express.

The good news is that Elizabeth Line train frequencies will rise from 22 to 24 an hour in the spring and full “through running” — between Shenfield, Heathrow and Reading — will commence. With the Tube at only 75 to 80 per cent of pre-pandemic “normal”, a bit of a struggle to get on the train might make for a nostalgic change.