Letters, Saturday, September 1st, 2012

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Road ahead for better bus services

BRIDGET Phillipson (Echo, August 29) omits to mention that the bulk of the taxpayer payments to bus companies within Tyne and Wear are to cover the cost of concessionary fares.

Fares cover only around 50 per cent of Metro costs (the taxpayer foots the bill for the rest) and the rail services to Newcastle and the MetroCentre are also heavily subsidised. Her call for the Tyne and Wear Integrated Transport Authority (ITA) to embrace bus quality contracts at its next meeting is premature.

Quality Contracts transfer the financial risk of running bus services to the ITA and local councils – ie the Tyne and Wear taxpayer picks up the bill. There will be no additional resources available to run more buses.

It is probable quality contracts would be subject to legal challenge (as Bridget concedes) from one or more of the local bus companies – delaying their possible introduction for two or three years.

Nexus’ wish to introduce simpler, zonal, fares alongside quality contracts would increase fares for shorter journeys – it is probable all fare-paying passengers in St Michael’s ward, for example, would have to pay more for their bus journeys to and from the city centre. This would lead to fewer bus passengers, not more.

We all want to see better bus services. A more sensible approach would be to try quality partnerships across Tyne and Wear. The bus companies have expressed their willingness and they could result in improved bus services within the year – much quicker than with quality contracts.

I understand a Teesside-wide quality partnership (to which all bus companies there would be a party) has received the green light. Tyne and Wear would be better following their more pragmatic example than following the dogmatic ropute advocated by Bridget Phillipson.

Coun Peter Wood, Conservative transport spokesman

Students’ effort

I WAS appalled by Mick “The Pen” Brown’s letter headlined “Exams too easy” (Letters, August 25).

How dare he say that GCSE examinations are so simplistic nowadays? I don’t know whether Mr. Brown has been living under a rock for the past week, but if not he won’t have failed to notice on the news that for the first time since the GCSE system was introduced in 1986, results have in fact deteriorated and many students have been left more than disheartened, having had many of the doors which would have allowed them to be a step closer to their dream career slammed in their faces.

In response to the drop in results, many teachers have appealed to examining boards because their students should have got higher marks, judging by the amount of effort they put it.

That is the key word here: effort. Students like myself put in copious effort and toil for two years, often even longer, for the results we and our teachers know we are capable of getting. Then, to not attain those results is heartbreaking in itself. We don’t need “The Pen” pontificating about how much harder it was in his day.

According to him, “the basic ingredient of any course work is simply to memorise the manuals”. Do I detect bitterness? Just because there weren’t as many study guides and resources like the internet in his day, it doesn’t mean we have got it easier. In 20 or 30 years from now, there will no doubt be much more available in order to aid that bunch of students to achieve the grades they want. And good on them!

Why not make the most of what’s in your arsenal? I know that I won’t be sitting, angrily shaking my fist in despair like Mr Brown.

Matthew Mclane

Places of worship

RE the letter written by John Hamilton, headlined “Change council”. In response, I would like to say that places of worship must be available to facilitate the residents of the community and are located on an easy to reach basis.

If these were on the outskirts they would not serve their purpose, as they would be hard to reach for many members of the community.

Are other places of worship not located in residential areas? It is wrong to criticise the council on their decision, as they have to facilitate the needs of all community members, not just the indigenous members.

As far as voting the council out, I feel this decision will help the Labour Party to gain thousands of extra votes in the city of Sunderland and hold a stronger position.

Taking a bucket of water from the sea doesn’t reduce the flow. So Mr Hamilton’s vote going to Conservatives will be hardly noticeable to the Labour Party. Labour will always win.

Tahir Khan, Sunderland

History lesson

AS a regular contributor to the Letters Page, I try and confine what I have to say to three or four paragraphs. The Echo does ask letter writers to be as brief as possible.

I was stunned by the length of the letter from J. Young of Fulwell on August 22, which turned out to be a long dissertation on American history.

J. Young should understand two things: 1. The average Echo reader may not be too interested in how much you know about U.S. colonial history. 2. Are you sure George Washington and Thomas Jefferson dressed up as Red Indians and took part in the Boston Tea Party?

William Crane, Langley Close, Washington