Don't Miss Boat on Transport
Sir, - John Prescott's new White Paper has some important messages about local public transport to Birmingham and this region. The most important is that we are obliged to produce a regional transport strategy.
This presumably means the definition of our long term aims (25 years?) in terms of road, rail and bus systems. Additionally, it requires local authorities to produce local five-year transport plans integrating with the regional strategy.
Government funding will only be considered if a scheme put forward forms part of the plan.
While still somewhat vague, these government requirements are long overdue and hopefully will rectify the piece-meal approach to local public transport planning that has plagued this conurbation for many years, in spite of the periodic appearance of impr essive looking documents.
However, one important step in this direction was made in the early part of last year by Birmingham's planning department with its Visions document and its accompanying untechnical Technical Document.
While recognising the importance of improving bus services, it comes out clearly in support of development of our nine radial rail routes as the main element in future strategy: "It needs to be recognised that traditional bus based park and ride systems, with dedicated bus services, are unlikely to be viable for a city the size of Birmingham due to the extensive lengths involved (and hence the number of buses that would be required)."
It goes on to list ten locations on our rail network in and outside the city for enhanced park and ride.
Sadly, the government White Paper focuses mainly on buses as the way forward for local public transport.
While supporting development of rail on a national basis, it does not mention that in some areas such as the West Midlands it is the key to the regional problem.
The government rightly states that the Metro type of light rail system "will not be a priority" because of its high cost.
But there is little reference to the requirement of a low cost people mover to transport people on shorter distances in urban locations in a convenient, pollution-free and unobtrusive way.
If its current commercial trials in Bristol succeed, the Parry People Mover, developed locally in Cradley Heath, could be the answer. This is a light tram with costs a fraction of Metros.
Birmingham is the national rail hub. With intercity services planned to increase, it is essential that our rail routes are developed to allow increases to the frequency of our local services as well.
The White Paper identifies two local "pinchpoints" in the area, Coventry to New Street and Kings Norton to New Street, quoting Railtrack as estimating that they will be solved by 2006.
But it must be the case that if the potential of our rail network is to be exploited for national and local use much greater investment will be required in the long term.
We have to get our regional plan together and put in bids urgently before other regions pip us at the post.
The Birmingham Civic Society.
Latin in the
Sir, - The forthright letter from Rachel Cooper (Post, Sept 7), on the dropping of Latin from the curriculum of King Edward VI Camp Hill Boys' School, raises the issue on the value of Latin and its teaching in schools.
While Shakespeare was supposed to have possessed "small Latin and less Greek" many of his literary contemporaries were more richly endowed in that respect.
One can think of that learned poet Edmund Spenser (1552 to 1599) and the playwright Ben Jonson (1573 to 1637) who had very solid classical backgrounds.
Also in the English literary scene there is the powerful figure of John Milton and poet John Dryden who learnt Latin under the redoubtable Dr Busby at St Paul's School, Alexander Pope, Matthew Prior and the essayists Joseph Addison and Sir Richard Steele . …