SPECTATOR recalls the cynical sentiments expressed by Mr Mike Darwin just two months ago.

In a letter to this paper, he wondered whether the seven-mile stretch of the A684 between Northallerton and Bedale merited a place in the Guinness Book of Records for the number of roadworks and associated traffic lights.

By the time his letter appeared all but one of those inconveniences had gone, but his words on behalf of sufferers everywhere have come back to haunt sorely tried travellers on this wretched road, which becomes more diabolical by the day.

It began with lights controlling strengthening work for at least the next five weeks on Morton-on-Swale bridge. Within days those ubiquitous contractors for Transco, the gas people, contrived to cause another delay by digging a hole in the road half a mile away in the village. They were then joined by the county council, which has installed four-directional lights at Leeming Bar crossroads for carriageway resurfacing.

Depending on how you look at it, it's either a deeply psychological conspiracy designed to drive already heavily taxed motorists off the roads, and into despair, or a peculiarly ham-fisted attempt to get all the works out of the way at once so that people may be left in relative peace for a few more weeks or months.

Spectator knows one thing. The concept of restoring passenger services to the Northallerton to Redmire railway, which quietly lies rusting a few hundred yards away across the fields, suddenly seems very attractive if this laudable act can finally be got together.

Travelling by train would involve none of the interminable road hassle which is stressing people out even before they reach work. And if our workplaces were within reasonable reach of a Northallerton rail terminus a walk there and back might actually do some of us (Spectator included) a bit of good.

Marvellous Margaret

Another example of Government ministers with foot-in-mouth over foot-and-mouth came on Tuesday.

Margaret Beckett was trying, on the BBC's World at One, to defend the government's stubborn refusal to cancel the General Election.

She made the point that it was "animals who are in quarantine not people", which is almost as crass a remark as Nick Brown's "head for the national parks" plea at the beginning of the crisis.