I READ, with great annoyance, Richard Blair's letter (July 16) regarding ScotRail's refurbished bicycle coaches on the West Highland line ("Scotrail launches new trains in Highlands adapted to carry 20 bikes", The Herald, July 15). Mr Blair obviously feels that he should have the right to convey his cycle free throughout the rail network. Rail companies, pandemic notwithstanding, have a duty to run their services in a commercial manner; not unreasonable given the amount of public money involved.

Running old and outdated freight and guards vans does not make commercial sense and as he stated these are passenger trains, not cycle carriers. It does make sense given the nature of this route to provide extra facilities (at huge cost) but not throughout the network.

I must at this point declare an interest, as I worked on ScotRail trains for many years and clearly remember the abuse I received from cyclists when they were asked to move their bikes from emergency exits or when I refused to instruct passengers to leave a busy train to allow cycles on board. Maybe if the railways charged a commercial freight rate for carrying cycles more vans could be found. Indeed, Mr Blair himself stated that many of the old vans ran empty, a situation which rail companies cannot now tolerate. Would Mr Blair expect courier companies to carry his bike free of charge? I am sure Thule and other bike rack companies do not provide their products free of charge, but seemingly rail companies must.

Pre-epidemic, and probably in the future, rail passengers have suffered from overcrowding and a shortage of seats and it therefore beggars belief that many more of these seats should be removed to cater for free carriage of bicycles. Passengers paying the same fare as cyclists would quite rightly be upset. Even if there are many more leisure passengers in future the great majority are unlikely to be cyclists and Mr Blair should accept the fact that these trains are primarily for passengers; cyclists can usually be carried free where space permits but realistically this must be secondary to passenger needs.

National Rail does encourage combined rail and bike travel but with clearly defined conditions and restrictions relating to space on trains. Maybe future trains will be designed with large amounts of cycle space, but it is very hard to see how rail companies could justify leasing and running these trains with large non-revenue-earning spaces.

Gerry Knowles, Bathgate.


I WAS interested to read Joanna Blythman’s article ("Put away weedkiller and let nature flourish – or prepare for the awful consequences", The Herald, July 17).

Although the council workers in Edinburgh are at a higher risk from glyphosate, most of us probably consume a certain amount of glyphosate, marketed as Roundup, each year. This is because farmers spray it on cereal and other crops to desiccate them before harvest. I assume this is to save money drying the grain post-harvest. This resulted in 30 per cent of the bread sold in the UK in 2013 containing the weedkiller (This was DEFRA’s figure). Although the levels found were well below the permitted levels, we do not know what the results of long-term exposure to this chemical and other pesticides will be.

Consumers should be notified of what contaminants are present in foods to allow them to make decisions on what food they are prepared to eat.

Rob Evans, Dundee.


IT is a national disgrace that the Open is not on terrestrial television. While I recognise that Sky's coverage slowly but surely took over golf, that doesn't make it right in the case of the Open.

The R&A, a Scottish-based organisation, keeps harping on and making rule changes to give golf a wider appeal yet seems happy to put commercial consideration first instead of getting the huge coverage terrestrial television would deliver.

During this Covid crisis golf has come into its own as a safe, socially-distanced, healthy sport for all ages and genders. Now is the time to build on this resurgence.

The Open comes home to St Andrews for its 150th playing next year. Surely our politicians can put aside their political opinions and lobby the R&A to get the Open back on terrestrial television.

Ian McNair, Glasgow.


* FOLLOWING the British Grand Prix, the BBC has apparently renamed Silverstone. All the announcers now refer to Silverstun.

Dr PM Dryburgh, Edinburgh.


MY cousin is currently in hospital following a fall. A wee booster on the menu: mince and tatties for lunch. Sadly inedible. A question for the Cabinet Secretary: is it too much to ask for a wholesome meal in our NHS in 2021?

Roddy MacDonald, Ayr.


I HAVE a bone to pick with the study showing that a “Pet dog will do anything for you – but share food” (The Herald, July 19), and point out that this was conducted by researchers at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna.

I am sure that Scottish dogs, and in particular my long-gone golden retriever and No 1 son, would be unfailingly generous and sharing.

I am uncertain about cats, but recall that my student friend at Glasgow University many years ago discovered that his landlady used a tin of cat meat for his supper-time sandwiches.

R Russell Smith, Largs.