Thursday's Letters: We have to switch part of the economy away from capital

DOES anyone in Government ever take a step back and look at the bigger picture?

The proposed new rail line is a prime example of blinkered thinking. Instead of spending billions on creating yet another London/North link, why not consider how we can change our London-centric system?

London is the centre for finance, government, tourism and many businesses. Consequently, the major part of our rail and road system has developed using London as its hub.

We talk about reducing carbon emissions, yet centralise so much activity in and around the capital, meaning that even northern-based businesses and departments have to fund the expense of staff constantly travelling to and from London.

I spent most of my working life based in the North yet, over the years, spent an average of at least one day each week in London.

The Government should look closely at the reasons for all the business and political activity centred on the capital and ask whether some of it is geographically necessary. This has been looked at in the past, but only in a stop-start half-hearted way.

In the past, any shift of activity out of London has been about creating jobs, reducing costs, and was often heavily subsidised using public money. Using a fraction of the proposed rail line money could get some of the economic activity away from London and to where it is needed, with massive benefits all round.

From: Paul Rouse, Main Street, Sutton upon Derwent, York.

From: Tim Mickleburgh, Littlefield Lane, Grimsby.

I AGREE with building a new high-speed rail link (Yorkshire Post, December 20), and think that the Nimby protesters should be ignored. After all, no one will be living as close to the railway as many residents are to busy roads that are – literally – on their doorstep.

Even so, I do wish that those seeking improvements in our public transport system didn't always go for the high-profile, high-cost option. I mean if you wanted to speed up buses, you could do so by subsidising the employment of conductors to take fares.

That would also create much-needed jobs at a time of mass unemployment.

Even the Nimbys wouldn't be able to object to such a sensible cost-effective measure.

From: David Reed, Long Tongue Scrog Lane, Houses Hill, Huddersfield.

PAUL Thornton's case against the high speed railway line to Leeds is pure propaganda (Yorkshire Post, December 21).

I will deal with just the most glaring: he claims that the new line will knock 20 minutes off the journey to London. Nonsense.

The predicted journey time is 80 minutes, a saving of over an hour and half on the present time. Such journey speeds are achieved routinely on a daily basis on the high speed lines in France, Germany, Italy, Brussels, Spain and the Netherlands. Why not Britain?

This line will bring a dramatic improvement to the Yorkshire economy.

Of course, Mr Thornton, living in Warwickshire, could not care less about this, but he should not publish rank distortions to make his case.

From: Mr JW Smith, Sutton-on-Sea.

I HAVE always fully supported the high speed rail campaign although it will not bring me any specified benefit.

So, what do I think about the letter from Dr Paul Thornton, published less than 24 hours after details of the route were announced?

This is absolutely nothing to do with the way the line will affect millions of people through the Midlands and on to Scotland on both sides of the country, it is pure and simple nimbyism from the Tory true blue heartlands of the home counties and south Midlands.

The CBI has warmly welcomed the decision and even the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (also Yorkshire Post, December 21) say the line would have an enormous input on connectivity between the UK's major cities.

Travellers regularly praise high speed lines on the continent which were built brushing aside objections and the Government should do the same and proceed with the project as quickly as possible.

School tables don't tell the whole story

From: Howard Knight, Lyons Street, Sheffield.

It is disappointing to see that, in your coverage of the primary school performance statistics (Yorkshire Post, December 15), you use just the league table of Sats results to define whether a school is "good" or "could do better", especially as all the research evidence suggests that this league table does little more than provide a reflection of the socio-economic and educational status of the parents.

Of course, Sats results are important and every school should be striving to ensure that each and every child achieves to the highest potential. But, in helping to determine whether a school is 'good', it is far more important to look at the other statistics which are published – particularly CVA (Contextual Added Value) and the percentage of pupils who make two levels of progress in English and Maths between the Key Stages.

Examining the percentage of children who make two levels of progress in maths, in Sheffield, you will find that this league table is topped by St Wilfred's (also incidentally featured as topping the SATS tables) but it is matched with 100 per cent by Greengate Lane, followed by Byron Wood's 98 per cent. Both these schools are well down the Sats tables, but both are performing much better than many schools towards the top of the Sats tables.

Similarly, the league table for Contextual Added Value is headed by few schools which feature near the top of the Sats tables, but all are clearly performing much better than comparative schools.

When parents and potential parents are looking at school performance, they should pay far more regard to percentage progress, CVA and Ofsted reports than to Sats league tables.

From: Trefor Lloyd, Boys Development Project, Commercial Way, Peckham, London.

"THOUSANDS of primary school boys fail at reading" (Yorkshire Post, December 17) is of course a major concern that must be addressed. However, Mr Gove's suggestions that we need to adapt teaching styles and test children at six to ensure they are on the right track, surely misses the point.

The fact this problem has persisted for some years suggests that identifying the right issue is critical if we are also to avoid failure.

One of the problems with reading is it cannot be divorced from verbal communication which is a prerequisite for reading. Measures taken at four suggest that there is a 10 per cent difference between boys and girls in communication, reading and writing.

This may be coincidence, but we also see a 10 per cent difference, or more, between boys' and girls' achievement at GCSE levels. Very worrying to think that we may make no impact on gender difference from the time boys and girls enter the educational system, to the time they leave it!

Currently, approaches to literacy in primary seems to work for the majority of pupils (80 per cent plus), so why change the basics for the minority?

We do need, however, to look at the significant number of boys from poor communities and their reading, but within a broader context of their verbal communication levels; their motivation; discipline and boundaries, and probably through recovery and targeted initiatives.

Unless we base our approach on an assessment of the broader picture, we will also fail, and waste scarce resources.

How to keep on the move

From: Duncan Anderson, Mill Lane, East Halton, Immingham, North Lincolnshire.

NOW is the time for central co-ordination between national organisations, regional agencies and local authorities to make sure as many people and as much goods can travel as easily as possible.

It isn't the time for government to expect ordinary people to do the best they can, although they will.

And it requires a bit of imaginative, technological thought. For example, road sweepers can clear snow and ice that hasn't been compacted, the nylon brushes can be changed to wire that will slice through compacted snow and ice.

A lot of football clubs have electrically-heated pitches. Why aren't strategic junctions and aircraft standings as well as some runways heated?

Drivers should be forced to carry warm clothing, spare fuel, "jump-leads" and a shovel or spade.

All of this requires central co-ordination. And government ministers should stop shirking responsibilities and get on with making sure that mass transit and goods transport systems work in an integrated manner.

A holiday for losing out

From: Donald P Raine, Marlborough Road, Shipley.

I FULLY agree with Graham Barthorpe (Yorkshire Post, December 4) thanking "someone" for saving us from another eight years of that "2018 World Cup" discussion.

Our Prime Minister was quick off the mark to please the people, by announcing next year's Royal Wedding day as a bank holiday.

Could he do even better for so many of us, by letting every commentator on the World Cup have their say until January 3 and declare January 4 "a day of mourning" for the tragic loss of the World Cup, making it yet another bank holiday?

Time to show these litter louts how to behave

From: Roger Crossley, Fall View, Silkstone, Barnsley.

JAYNE Dowle's little rant about litter in her town centre (Yorkshire Post, December 20) inspires me to write to you once again on this subject.

It's good to see Jayne being so annoyed about the behaviour of her fellow citizens in Barnsley. She is absolutely right to question whether there is a link between "thoughtlessness" about litter, and a culture of expectancy and dependency. These people, I feel, are not only ignorant of the damage they do, but most do not care anyway.

No, with them it is a losing battle. Imagine having a meaningful and sensitive conversation with a person who can lob a bottle, or cigarette packet out of a car, for instance.

Most Yorkshire Post readers would be appalled at the physical act, never mind the mental condition needed to get there.

And that leads me to my point really. I guess it is reasonable to surmise that most people who read these letters do not throw litter, and those who do, do not read them.

Consequently, our moaning falls on non-existent ears. However, for the rest of us who do read Yorkshire Post letters, we can be pro-active. We can make a difference and lead by example.

How? We pick the litter up. Not all of it, of course. On our walks with the dog, with our kids, even shopping.

No fuss, no lecturing or accusing glances. Just put it in the bin and walk away. Others will see and ponder. And slowly, surreptitiously, "people power" will rule. Let's do it.

Paying the price for litre of milk

From: Mrs Nita Fenton, Ben Rhydding, Ilkley.

SHAME on supermarkets for selling a litre of milk for less than a bottle of water.

This is a nourishing, valuable commodity, produced by farmers who were compelled to protest outside a supermarket on a bitterly cold night last Thursday.

Sadly, seven or eight dairy farmers are leaving the industry every year, because they cannot afford to continue.

We, as consumers, would be willing to pay a realistic, profitable price, even though the supermarkets may not.

On track at long last

From: Graham Lund, Dalrymple Street, Girvan.

Thank goodness the order for new trains has been placed. It is long overdue.

Should off-peak fares not apply to all arrivals before 07.45 to spread out the morning peak?

Car drivers will not transfer to rail if they have to pay full fare to stand.

Can policy work both ways?

From: David Tankard, Birkdale Avenue, Knaresborough.

The Government wants local authorities to save money by combining their individual back room functions with those of other authorities.

The Government wants the NHS to save money by devolving combined back room functions to individual doctor's practices.

Surely they can't both be right, can they, or am I missing some important point of the Government's strategy?