Tories on the right track

I FOUND it difficult to believe I was listening to the Conservative Party last week when its leadership was calling for the abandonment of proposals to expand Stansted Airport and instead invest in new high-speed rail lines.

I FOUND it difficult to believe I was listening to the Conservative Party last week when its leadership was calling for the abandonment of proposals to expand Stansted Airport and instead invest in new high-speed rail lines.

This is by far the most sensible transport statement from a political party with a realistic chance of winning a general election.

The growth in the number of flights cannot be allowed to continue - it is the most environmentally-damaging form of transport.

It is madness to fly from London to Manchester, Leeds, or even Glasgow and Edinburgh when rail travel can be as quick and much less damaging to the planet.

I've never really been able to understand the need to constantly increase the number of flights from Stansted - and while many seem to be welcoming the expansion confirmed yesterday, it strikes me as unnecessary with the danger of simply creating a demand which is wholly undesirable from an environmental point of view.

A network of high-speed lines like there is in France could transform the country - just across the Channel domestic flights have fallen dramatically as new high-speed rail lines have been developed.

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It is great to hear that the Tories have noticed this and are now looking at high-speed rail as a serious alternative. If they get in during 2010 I shall look forward to the construction of a high-speed line through the middle of Britain by 2015.

But I'm only giving the scheme two cheers at present - because I remain to be convinced it will ever happen.

I have two concerns - firstly there is the fact that the Conservatives as a party have never been known as pro-rail. Indeed in the 1980s Mrs Thatcher commissioned the Serpell Report which suggested thousands of miles should be ripped up.

But my concern is not based mainly on the party's history - parties can change. Labour went from being rabidly anti-European in the 1980s to being far less hostile to Brussels than the Tories a decade later.

My real concern about the Conservatives' rail plans is that ultimately they won't have the determination, and cash, they need to push them through.

The civil service in this country is pro-flight and pro-airport. Of course if the Tories came into power, Sir Humphrey and his mandarins would say: “We will push through your plans.”

But at every turn they would be saying to the minister: “Do you really think that's wise?”

The cost of building Britain's only true high-speed rail link so far from the Channel Tunnel to London was astronomical - even if it has transformed travel through Kent.

I worry that within a couple of years we would find there would be a proposal to upgrade ten miles of track in the west midlands, and a proposal to build a third runway at Stansted as a cheaper option than a new rail line!

I would love to be proved wrong, and I hope David Cameron and his colleagues turn out to have the determination to turn round and tell the bureaucrats that they want things done their way.

That way we could end up with a good, cheap efficient rail system and people would be able to get quickly around our own country and not want to take polluting aircraft for weekends in the fleshpots of Bergerac or Tampere!

IT'S difficult to know who has been more stupid in this town over the construction of the new pelican crossing which is causing congestion across Ipswich from dawn to dusk.

Do we blame the traffic planners for failing to recognise that introducing a new traffic obstacle on the tightest pinch point in the town would cause chaos?

Do we blame the politicians at the county and borough councils for not knowing enough about our town to realise this would cause chaos before it opened?

Or do we blame ourselves for being so blinded by the wonderful prospect of UCS that we hadn't seen this drawback?

What is probably more important than playing the blame game is for someone to take the bull by the horns and try to sort this dreadful mess out.

Knowing the speed with which council decisions move, it will probably take a decade to solve this problem by which time we'll all have ground to a total halt.

But is it really too much trouble for someone to put up a new footbridge across Fore Street so students can get from the college to UCS without stopping the traffic every 30 seconds?

I know it would be expensive, but how much money and fuel is being wasted by vehicles sitting in queues because of this crossing?

And frankly we ought to be told whose bright idea this crossing was in the first place - and then find them a new job . . . maybe counting cars on Stoke Bridge for the next ten years!

I LOVED the letter from Terry Davis about my support for speed cameras - I'd have loved it even more if I had fully understood it!

I couldn't quite work out if he was claiming that Labour is the only party who supports speed cameras and that the Conservatives are on the side of bad drivers who exceed the speed limit - I'm not sure that is the message David Cameron is trying to get across!

Also, I have never claimed that speed cameras don't raise money for the government. What I can't see is that there is anything wrong with that!

If criminals who exceed the speed limit help to fund hospitals, schools, and police patrols, what is wrong with that.

And at the risk of repeating myself for the millionth time . . . the only people who have to pay anything after driving past a speed camera are those who break the speed limit. Those who break the law.

One last point, I do question the motives of those who come up with spurious reasons to moan about speed cameras.

Frankly I'd have much more respect for them if they said quite frankly: “I like to drive faster than the speed limit and I don't want to be caught by the cameras and fined!”

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