The many commentaries on cancellation of the Glasgow Airport Rail Link (Garl) have made interesting and sometimes hysterical reading.

Given that BAA predicts passenger throughput at Glasgow Airport will increase by 50% in the next five years and threefold by 2030, a do-nothing response is no solution to the problem.

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If increasing bus services is to be the solution, it has to be remembered that these services have failed to meet existing targets by BAA to raise the percentage of passengers travelling to the airport by bus (modal share).

A targeted increase from 8.5% (2001) to 12.0% (2006) was missed. It appears unlikely the 2014 target of 15.0% will be met. Just to stand still at current levels

of modal share (11.1%) will mean a further 1.65 million passengers a year taking the bus or taxi by 2014. That will mean more congestion and pressure on capacity.

The road lobby, with some justification, points to the M74 completion as the panacea. It will help remove city centre congestion. But where will it move to?

With the M8, M74 and M77 (turnback) all feeding into the motorway, you only need to look at Renfield Street at 5pm for a possible insight as to what the M8 section around Hillington might look like in a few years. More than 70% of all journeys are double journeys with one leg empty. Every new passenger means four such journeys, the majority of which will use the same road. The road lobby has an ally in BAA, which wants a new motorway access and plans to double car parking at the airport.

The railway offers a true mass transit solution to a problem already with us. BAA has plans to accommodate much bigger aircraft at Abbotsinch. Just add the traffic generated by one 555-passenger superjumbo on to the M8 at peak times and it is clear that trains will be an important part of the solution.

However, Garl as designed is not part of the solution. It is quite scandalous that it was lumbered with the cost of alterations to Central Station, for the upgrade of the Glasgow-Paisley line and for the improvements to the goods lines when these projects still proceed now that Garl has been cancelled.

The solution is to manage costs and revenues efficiently. On costs, what is needed is a redesign of Garl to miss the fuel farm; removal of all the unnecessary costs from its feasibility study and a greater capital commitment from BAA using compulsory purchase powers, if necessary. Increasing the revenue base can be done in three ways. First, cater for more passengers by using a timetable which varies between express (direct) services and commuter services; secondly, secure a greater operating contribution from BAA; thirdly, plan the expansion of services calling directly at the airport. This would happen with Crossrail but reinstating the cross over between the Ayr and Inverclyde lines just west of Paisley Gilmour Street would allow a single airport service calling at both Glasgow and Prestwick.

When faced with the unacceptable cost of the Forth road crossing, the SNP redesigned it. When faced with the unacceptable cost of Garl, the SNP cancelled it. It also cancelled the suggested £47m already spent. To write off this public investment without looking at the options is irresponsible.

William Forbes,Cambuslang, Glasgow.

 

 

 

Justice Secretary has no control over which prisoners become terminally ill

 

Your headline (“Anger as MacAskill releases record number of killers early”, The Herald, September 28) is misleading.

On reading the text, it turns out that the Justice Secretary has released three terminally-ill prisoners convicted of murder, including Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi. Why is this a record?

Because two previous Justice Secretaries, Jim Wallace and Cathy Jamieson, released only two such terminally-ill murderers, plus one more convicted only of culpable homicide. So a ratio of 3 to 21/2 makes this “a record number”? The number of criminals released on compassionate grounds depends entirely on how many become terminally ill and apply for early release, which is not within the control of, or decided upon at the whim of, any Justice Secretary.

I believe more than 30 prisoners have been released on such grounds over the past 10 years.

Whatever one’s views are about the guilt or innocence of Megrahi, and I have serious doubts about the court verdict, I am proud that Scottish justice leaves a place for compassion and does not condemn a dying man to spend his last days alone in a prison cell.

That seems to me preferable to the American penal system, where just last week the authorities tried for two hours to execute a convicted murderer by lethal injection, after he had already spent more than 30 years on death row awaiting execution.

Such inhuman treatment should have no place in the criminal justice system of any civilised country.

Iain A D Mann, Glasgow.

 

 

 

Scottish system for buying and selling houses has descended into a sorry mess and disrepute

 

In a few short months, the lethal cocktail of the credit crunch and Home Reports has made the Scottish process of house buying and selling worse than the English system.

Where there was once certainty, there is now frustration, needless expense, huge disappointment, confusion, stress, anger and unfairness.

There is no consistency as to which lenders will accept Home Reports and which won’t. One branch of the same lender will; another will not.

Arguments abound as to whether it is the seller’s or purchaser’s responsibility

to pay to refresh out-of-date Home Reports. Surveyors refuse to refresh their Home Reports at the request of prospective purchasers. In the past month alone, Home Reports surveyors have failed to identify properties classed as “defective” under the housing defects legislation which were part of a development previously underpinned.

The number of Home Reports is increasing given the recent rise in houses being marketed. What would be much more significant is the percentage of sales achieved only with a refreshed Home Report and the percentage of purchasers still obliged to pay for a separate survey. My experience suggests that some 66% of sales fall into the last two categories.

Valuations commissioned by pur­chasers rarely match the Home Report valuations, so the opportunity to gazump is embraced by many purchasers.

Lenders are taking so long to confirm their acceptance (or otherwise) of Home Reports that gazumping is rife as frustrated sellers are fed up waiting for bargains to be struck by purchasers.

In the new build market, we have the ludicrous fiction of a market value and simultaneous remarket value where the buyer is advised by his surveyor

that £X is the value of the house to buy but its immediate resale value is only £X minus 20%.

In hundreds of cases each month, binding contracts are only being struck on the day the transaction is being settled and many fall apart for the same reason, as mortgage offers are produced or declined at the eleventh hour.

Removal firms cannot plan, utility companies and councils are gathering inaccurate information, and some folk find themselves homeless.

It is significant that, apart from the Royal and Clydesdale banks, virtually all volume mortgage lenders process mortgage applications in England and all, even these Scottish based banks, use a system designed for the English and Welsh conveyancing system rather than the Scottish one. Apart from the loss of this significant sector of the financial services industry to Scotland, our house buying and selling system is descending into disrepute.

Scotland is a significant and safer market for these lenders than most of the UK. The Scottish Government must use this advantage to force these lenders to process mortgages in Scotland according to the Scottish house buying and selling system; sort out the considerable inconsistencies in the Home Report process by surveyors; and restore some credibility to the experience.

It’s high time that those who advise government spent a week with the major conveyancing firms in Scotland to witness at first hand how solicitors have to deal with this sorry mess.

Graeme McCormick, Glasgow.

 

 

 

Hospital parking pain

 

I have every sympathy with Patrick Prosser regarding his predicament in trying to find a parking space (Letters, September 26).

Last Wednesday, my daughter, in the final week of her pregnancy and in a particularly uncomfortable state, was able to arrange at short notice an appointment with a consultant at the Southern General Hospital in Glasgow. She arrived with her husband in their car at the hospital around 2.30pm and drove around and around in an attempt to find a parking space. No space was available and, because the time to meet the consultant was running short, they parked their car outside the entrance in the main road.

This parking spot was illegal but, despite my daughter being in great discomfort, they decided not to park in a disabled bay, although there were many available.

Later, on returning from the appointment, they discovered that their car had been towed away to the pound in London Road. The car had been given a ticket five minutes after they had parked it and was taken away 15 minutes later. It cost a £14 taxi journey from the hospital to London Road and another £180 to release the car from the pound. It was actually in the pound for less than one hour.

The experience was harsh, with no account being taken of my daughter being in urgent need of attention at the hospital.

I should mention that, on Sunday, there were a huge number of empty spaces marked “Staff parking by permit only”. Could these not be used under controlled circumstances?

Brian Samuel,Newton Mearns. Glasgow.

 

 

 

Absurd waste of money

 

the Home Office will be wasting £544,000 of our taxes during this financial quarter on an advertising campaign with animated fingerprints designed to promote ID cards.

People aren’t stupid. Hordes of deluded fools will not be clamouring to hand over their cash and fingerprints because of cheerful cartoon characters. Where is the target market? People who would subject themselves and their families to lifelong reporting requirements and electronic surveillance on the basis of an advertising campaign?

While ministers in Brighton talk about tough spending decisions and fiscal responsibility, they preside over a government that squanders our taxes for the most absurd reasons.

Dr Geraint Bevan, NO2ID Scotland, 3e Grovepark Gardens, Glasgow.

 

 

 

Would you credit it?

 

An advertisement in The Herald (September 25) for HM Senior Chief Inspector of Education gives details of the type of person the Scottish Government is looking for.

Among the qualities sought is “credibility”. The person specification also says “you do not need to be a registered teacher”.

So, the leader of the inspectors of schools and colleges will not need to have a background that actually includes having taught at some point in his or her career. And this person would bring “credibility” to the job?

Imagine if the next advert for Scotland football manager said “does not need to have played football”.

Wilson Blakey, Milngavie.

 

 

 

Iran’s brave opposition deserves west’s support

I was amazed to read about Gordon Brown attacking Iran and accusing it of a “serial deception of many years” over the latest revelations on its nuclear programme (“Iran defiant as Brown hints at sanctions”, The Herald, September 26) . It was his colleague Jack Straw as Foreign Secretary who indulged in serial appeasement of Iran over many years, ignoring the appalling abuse of human rights and bending to every demand from the mullahs. He even listed the People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI) as terrorists in the UK and then pressed successfully for their blacklisting in the EU, at the direct request of the oppressive regime in Tehran. It took five separate court rulings in England and Europe to reverse this grave injustice.

It was the PMOI that first informed the west of Iran’s nuclear programme. Daily its members risk their lives in Iran to bring intelligence about the mullahs’ nuclear intentions to the west. Many of us have warned that the policy of appeasement was doomed and was only buying time for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s nuclear ambitions. We have also warned that military intervention would simply pour fuel on the fire of Middle East tension.

There is a third way. The west must stop making empty threats against the mullahs and instead give outright backing to the civilian population who bravely face the brutality of the Basij militia and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to voice their demands for freedom and democracy.

The Prime Minister should back the Iranian people and their biggest opposition movement -- the PMOI -- instead of uttering meaningless threats of sanctions.

Struan Stevenson, Conservative Euro MP for Scotland, The European Parliament, Brussels.

 

 

 

Boot camp blues

 

With regard to equipment deficiencies in the armed forces, I recall that, when I was called up to the Royal Army Medical Corps, I had to buy my own boots, brown shoes, mess uniform, shirts and ties. I had to provide also my own medical equipment, such as auriscope, ophthalmoscope and so on. The boots were a great buy as I used them for years in the garden until my wife, sick of the sight of them, gave them to a passing tramp.

Dr William O Thomson, Bothwell.