THE North-East entered the last decade with plans for a high-speed rail service linking the region with Europe. Those plans came to nothing.

The North-East entered this decade with plans to double the capacity on the rail service between the region and London. Those plans, it now seems, will come to nothing.

For the foreseeable future, our region in the 21st century is to be saddled with a railway network which has improved very little since the 19th century.

At a time when the economic disadvantages because of the North-South Divide are more evident than ever, there is a crying need for improved communications with the nation's capital and the Home Counties.

And at a time when the region is losing its competitive edge to the emerging economies on the continent, we need a transport system which integrates us into Europe, not one which isolates us.

The failure to invest in our railway network is short-sighted and a false economy.

While there may be money saved over the next few years, the damage caused to our long-term economic development is incalculable.

Our region needs a public transport system which makes us feel an integral part of this country and of Europe.

We need to be brought closer to our markets and our suppliers, not made to feel like a remote trading outpost.

A pointless gesture

UNDERSTANDABLY, emotions are running high after Sunday's suicide bombings in Tel-Aviv and the Israeli armed retaliation.

Against such a background, the Israeli ban on the Palestinian delegation travelling for potential peace talks in London is to be expected.

Nevertheless, it is regrettable. It is to be hoped that every diplomatic pressure possible is placed on the Israeli administration to lift the ban.

Without negotiations between both sides involved in the conflict there can be no hope for peace.

The Israeli's refusal to let the London mini-summit go ahead will only encourage the terrorists, and ensure the continuation of the tit-for-tat cycle of violence.