Station access

THE sad story of inaccessibility at Thirsk railway station is in reality a tale of money wasting, and is a Catch 22 situation, “Call for urgent changes at ‘inaccessible’ station” (D&S Times Apr 22).

In reality it was the arrival of Grand Central in 2007 that put Thirsk on the map with several daily direct train services to London.

Passengers travelling south would now have more luggage with them than before but have to negotiate the steep stairs up from the car park and down again to the platforms, a real ordeal on dark and cold winter nights.

And what about passengers in wheelchairs? Well, with advance notice, they could be pushed across the tracks when there were safe gaps between trains travelling at over 100mph. This is not for the faint hearted.

Discretion would dictate that it is probably safer to use Northallerton instead, a choice also made by able bodied people.

And so we have a classic Catch 22 situation as passenger numbers increased at Northallerton, while they fell at Thirsk. And when passenger numbers fall then trains are cancelled, as shown by Trans-Pennine omitting a stop at Thirsk for several trains.

And if there are fewer trains the station will attract fewer passengers. As a member of the Rail User Group for some ten years I can confirm that many, many complaints were received about access, or rather the lack of it.

Many requests were made to Network Rail, to Sir Peter Hendy, whilst local MP Kevin Hollinrake raised this in Parliament in 2019.

Thirsk has very particular needs as disabled access to either platform for inbound or outbound trains is diabolical. Concrete steps are the only way to access the ticket office and platforms without physically crossing the tracks.

Those with mobility problems must reach the ticket office and both platforms by navigating a barrow crossing across the high-speed railway line. This can be a very difficult and even traumatic experience for the elderly, disabled passengers, parents with pushchairs or people heaving heavy suitcases.

The problem is getting the funding. But wait a minute, why has Network Rail just spent £3m at Northallerton? Answer, the ramps did not meet disabled access legislation rules. Those ramps, where able bodied people could easily move their wheeled luggage up and down, and where in ten years, not one single complaint was received from a wheelchair-using passenger or helper.

The Rail User Group was advised that if we did not support "improvements" at Northallerton we could not request funding for Thirsk station, which, because of lower footfall, was in a lower funding category.

It is comforting to read that Graham Meiklejohn of TransPennine will be making yet another bid for funding later on this year and good luck to Chris Purser, but we shouldn't hold our breath.

Three million pounds has been spent at Northallerton, which did not want improvements but which ticked the boxes criteria used by the civil servants in Government, money which could have transformed the lives of passengers at Thirsk who can carry on heaving their luggage and pushchairs up and down the concrete stairs or playing chicken across the East Coast Main Line.

What a wonderful way to waste taxpayers' money.

Fred Wachsberger, Knayton.

Child poverty

LIFE in North Yorkshire is good for many of us but the proportion of children growing up in poverty has doubled to about one in three.

The need for food parcels delivered by the local Hambleton FoodShare continues to rise.

Judging by their leaflets, the Conservative candidates for the North Yorkshire Council election on May 5, don’t care about hungry children or don’t know what to do. No plans, targets or even concern are evident.

Except for the dishonest Prime Minister, the person most able to alleviate many of the causes of hardship is the part-time US-resident Chancellor. Tragically Mr Sunak does not appear to care.

Dishonesty and callous disregard for others is endemic within the Conservative party. With few exceptions, people who should know better are failing to take the required action.

Their passivity or acquiescence is reminiscent of those involved in the rise of totalitarianism in the 1920s and 1930s.

The wisdom of an African proverb is chilling: “The child who is not embraced by the village will burn it down to feel its warmth.” The increasing numbers of children growing up hungry and in poverty are learning that no one in authority cares enough to prevent their plight, that law breaking, lying and callous self-interest are to be applauded or at least condoned.

Do the candidates have the wisdom and integrity to provide the required radical change of leadership if elected? Does the electorate care?

Mark Harrison, Swainby (Lib Dem candidate, Romanby Division, North Yorkshire County Council elections).

Election message

STOKESLEY ward needs a new voice to improve the lives of the local people.

The Tories and Liberal Democrats have not raised services such as social care, education, transport or housing to a high enough standard and I urge voters to give Labour a chance to be their voice to ensure better provision of these services.

I will work to increase the supply of more affordable homes.

I will make it a priority to urgently improve social care to provide support for people with all forms of need. To make sure of a dignified independence and guarantee that the assessment process is fair, accessible, timely and transparent. Developing plans to provide residential care in areas of shortages is imperative.

I will be a leader in developing training, support and livings for care workers. I see it as vital to stand up for unpaid carers and to be sure that they have good advice, support and respite.

I will work with other Labour councillors to create an effective employment policy to provide well paid local jobs and develop a thriving local economy.

I will work hard to raise attainment standards for all our school students and adequate support for teaching staff.

Scrutinising all services through the lens of climate change need will be central for me as well as working towards achieving net zero carbon emissions across the county by 2030.

Geoff Marron, Stokesley (Labour candidate, Stokesley Division, North Yorkshire County Council elections).

Time to go

THERE are some claiming that now is not the time to end Boris Johnson’s premiership. This is definitely the time. Why?

The fact that the Metropolitan Police have issued 50 Fixed Penalty Notices to those attending parties in Downing Street, including Mr Johnson, is confirmation that the Prime Minister lied to Parliament and the people of this country.

He allowed those working for him to repeatedly break the rules he had set out to the nation. Mr Johnson must go.

In these challenging times we need a Prime Minister who upholds the seven principles of public life (the Nolan Principles) namely holders of public office should be selfless, act with integrity, be objective, be accountable, open, honest and show leadership by actively promoting and robustly supporting the principles and challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs.

Our MP, Kevin Hollinrake, continues to defy the evidence and slavishly support Boris Johnson. He will not call on him to stand down.

If, like me, you feel this is unacceptable please use the local elections, on May 5, to show that the Conservatives are unelectable with Boris Johnson as their leader.

B A Southwell, Bagby, Thirsk.

Simple truths

IN his valedictory account of Englishness, The Lion and the Unicorn, George Orwell identified the core feature of the English, and indeed British character, respect for constitutionalism. "Not for us the jingoism, expediency and despotic tendencies of others. In England all the boasting and flag-wagging, the 'Rule Britannia' stuff, is done by small minorities. The patriotism of the common people is not vocal or even conscious. Rather, there is a feeling for decency, respect, reliability, honesty, probity. Here one comes upon an all-important English trait: the respect for constitutionalism and legality, the belief in 'the law' as something above the State and above the individual, something which is cruel and stupid, of course, but at any rate incorruptible."

Before we lose all sense of who we are, let us remind ourselves of these simple truths and let them shape our responses to the current political crisis.

The central feature of the present crisis is the collapse of trust in our government arising from police-confirmed facts that key actors in Whitehall acted without probity, and with disrespect for the laws they had made.

This is only one of many areas where the same sort of inappropriate practices are evidenced. There is now a strange and unpleasant scent of the corruptible in the air, a feeling that our rulers are part of the problems and crises we face, and not part of the solution.

Between general elections we have to rely upon press scrutiny, parliamentary and legal political processes to uphold the Constitution. But Conservative MPs seem to be sitting on their hands, wilfully averting their eyes, and some, actually tolerating disdain for our, "respect for constitutionalism and legality, the belief in 'the law'”.

Please let your disquiet be known to our MPs and Conservative Party candidates when you vote in the upcoming local elections.

Dr John R Gibbins, Sowerby.

No opposition

BACK stabbing and blood-letting in the Tory Party has reached new heights as more police action over 10 Downing Street's Covid breaches is threatened.

But where's the Labour Party?

Another shifty and awkward weekend TV appearance by Labour leader Keir Starmer fills progressives with gloom.

Mr Starmer no longer calls for the resignation of PM Boris Johnson, citing the Ukraine crisis.

The UK pandemic death count hit the North East particularly hard. Links between the Conservative Party and "Londongrad's" Vladimir Putin-supporting oligarchs all deserve to attract a resounding raspberry from the electorate on May 5.

But instead of leading the charge and giving leadership to the millions of angry UK voters, Mr Starmer hides again.

Meanwhile Labour's Shadow Chancellor, Rachel Reeves goes all mealy-mouthed over pay issues. Workers deserve a pay increase to match inflation. She also opposes the only real solution to rocketing energy bills – public ownership.

The Tories are not fit to govern but this has been true for generations. Tragically, once again Blairite Labour are the Tories "get out of jail" card.

C Walker, Darlington.

Call for diplomacy

THE plight of people in Ukraine is one of the worst things currently happening in the world.

It would be awful to give in to the perpetrators, but at the same time to not do so would cause more suffering, death and destruction.

What is the point of being justified if the cost to the real victims is only increased?

Asking for and sending weapons will only increase the cost. It will prolong the war which will eventually stop. The Russians might win, Ukraine might win but both will lose.

Please settle your differences without bullets.

Chris Pattison, Richmond.

Food miles

MY son has recently bought a pack of “Auntie's sticky toffee steamed puds". afterwards reading the small print on the back well-hidden he found they were produced in New Zealand.

What on earth are we doing importing 95g puddings from there, think of the carbon footprint.

Has the world gone crazy?

Mason Scarr, Bainbridge, Leyburn.