Rail track needs investment

COMMUTERS and occasional visitors to London will be breathing a sigh of relief today as train services start to return to normal after this week's hiatus.

COMMUTERS and occasional visitors to London will be breathing a sigh of relief today as train services start to return to normal after this week's hiatus.

Accidents happen, and the response by train operator National Express ensured that the disruption was kept to a minimum after the first few hours of total confusion.

But as do services do start to return to normal today, there needs to be a hard look at the way that vital stretch of line in Essex operates.

The line between Shenfield and Colchester is now one of the busiest commuter routes in the country, but is only two tracks.

Building extra tracks would be expensive - but with more people wanting to catch trains to the capital every day, surely that investment would eventually pay for itself.

The overhead wires in Essex date from between the wars, and the section where the cable came down on Monday was installed in the late 1950s. It is due to be replaced in 2012 - this week's problems showed why it is so necessary.

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And in the midst of all the restricted passenger services, freight trains with containers were still being sent on the line.

That is totally ridiculous - the container trains from Felixstowe go to freight yards in the north of England and the midlands.

It makes no sense at all to send these on congested, at the best of times, tracks to London and then send them north again when there is a perfectly good cross-country route from Haughley to Nuneaton via Ely and Peterborough.

Rail has a bright future in East Anglia - but it does need investment and fresh planning to bring it into the 21st century.

CANNABIS production is becoming an increasing problem for police and customs officers to deal with - and the scale of the problem has become clear with new figures released today showing that the number of seizures have trebled in the last three years.

As more becomes known about this drug, it is becoming clear that while many people may be able to use it without suffering any long-term harm for a significant minority of users it can trigger very serious mental problems.

The government signalled its concern about the growth in the use of the drug by reclassifying it as a Category B drug rather than Category C earlier this year - and the war against its production has been given a much higher priority recently.

It is a war that the police will never win completely - but it is a war that must carry on.

PUTTING schools like Holywells and Chantry on a government list of those which could be taken over by outside bodies is a complete slap in the face to the staff who are doing such a great job there.

Unless GCSE exams are so easy that all students pass them - and then they would be an outcry - there are always going to be some schools that have below-average results as well as those getting above-average scores.

You have to look at the catchment area from which the schools attract their pupils, and the improvement those pupils make while at school.

And on those criterion there is nothing failing about Holywells and Chantry at all. Just because all their students don't leave to go to top universities doesn't mean that there is anything second-rate about the education they offer.

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