Train firm not
to blame for
going off rails

From: Bob Watson, Springfield Road, Baildon.

WHILE it was interesting to note that Northern Rail (NR) is one of the least trusted of the train companies, it surely has to be said that there are extenuating circumstances to bear in mind.

When Northern took on the franchise, it was granted on a no-growth basis which, with hindsight, was utter nonsense.

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Also, they have been obliged to operate stock that should have been consigned to the scrap heap many years ago. Even when replacement stock has been forthcoming, this has, far too often, been old refurbished units that in other times would also have been scrapped. This has been all the more annoying when new stock has been provided elsewhere in the country.

I think it is fair to say that Northern has had to operate with one hand tied behind its back, but has tried its best to run a huge network covering such places as Carlisle, Blackpool, Southport, Chester, Newcastle, Whitby, Sheffield, Lincoln and Nottingham. Not an easy task, especially with unreliable old stock.

In the main, the Airedale and Wharfedale services in particular have been very good, and whilst it must be said that more can be done, it is surely up to the Department for Transport to ensure that substantial enhancements are forthcoming with the new franchise agreement.

Further, considering the sort of stock that Northern and its customers have had to contend with over many years, there should be no talk of substantial fare rises, booking office closures or service reductions in the new agreement. We all deserve so much better.

From: ME Wright, Grove Road, Harrogate.

TOM Richmond recounts yet another nightmare Northern Rail trip (The Yorkshire Post, August 18). Over the years, so many of us have written in similar vein, and been answered by the same threadbare platitudes, all sounding like a stuck record.

The reason has been staring us in the face for years: all Northern coaches carry the legend “A Serco/Abellio Joint Venture”. One OED definition of “venture” is “fortune, luck, chance” – a not uncommon experience for Northern passengers. Public service doesn’t warrant a mention.

So there we have it and with an election looming, the big one for would-be MPs is “what are you going to do about it?”

From: Peter Hyde, Driffield.

SPEAKING as a lifelong Tory voter, I feel that this Government is far too fixated on privatisation in one form or another. The railways are franchised out and clearly this results in companies vying for the profitable lines in the South to the detriment of Northern lines.

Making a meal out of funding

From: Elizabeth J Peacock, Conservative MP, Batley & Spen 1983 – 1997.

I DRAW your attention to the report by Adrian Pearson on political funding in your Saturday edition (The Yorkshire Post, August 16).

In his article he refers to the United and Cecil Club which gathers donations for Conservative constituencies.

As a former vice-chairman of the United and Cecil Club (though no longer a member) I remain convinced that it is carrying on its traditional activities of supporting the Conservative party around the country.

The United and Cecil Club is a centuries-old historic body on the Westminster and Parliamentary scene, being the merged result of the Cecil and Salisbury family’s private Westminster dining club.

Now, as then, the objective was to meet over dinner to discuss Tory policy and analyse the needs of the party around the country to win elections. The tradition has been, and remains, that it is an honour to be a member but your dinner may be somewhat expensive.

It is from these funds that the club can, over a Parliament, provide useful donations to help constituencies in their electioneering.

Under the new and probably misguided rules this sort of activity is banned from the House of Commons, forcing the club to operate from elsewhere. Even with this enforced change there is full transparency with no need for controversy.

This contrasts with the secrecy of union funding for the Labour Party and the monies provided to Labour constituencies and Members of Parliament by the financially damaged co-operative movement.

Dodgy deals
with US food

From: Clare McAlpine, Leeds.

CHICKEN washed in chlorine, and beef and pork injected with hormones, are illegal in this country. But the US government wants the UK and the rest of the EU to allow these American products to go on sale in our shops.

The ban on these dodgy meat products is just one of many regulations, designed to protect people and the environment, that could be threatened by a trade deal being negotiated between the EU and the US.

Multi-national companies are pushing hard to get rid of any regulations that stand in their way. The UK government is backing the deal, once again putting big business above the lives of ordinary people.

It’s time to stand up for ourselves and make sure this deal is abandoned.