IN the light of recent events, could I ask the following questions?

If Railtrack is now replacing cracked rails, will it be using quality metal? I am sure the people who were faced with redundancies and closures in the steel business in this country would like to supply the product now, but would have preferred to do so earlier.

Where did Railtrack get 20,000 engineers at such short notice? Considering the amount of shrinkage in employment numbers within the rail industry since privatisation, were these "engineers" really engineers and also rail industry competent?

Why did Gerald Corbett try to blame the Government's targets as part of Railtrack's problems? Surely the rail companies were aware of the growing passenger numbers when they accepted the franchises? Where has all the money in subsidies gone? Why has GNER not invested in new trains instead of coats of paint on old ones? Why was GNER not aware of track problems on the lines? Why was there no manager responsible, within GNER, to monitor the standard of work, or lack of it from Railtrack which is responsible for the track?

Could it be that the Rail Regulator, Tom Winsor, is doing his job rather too well? - CJ Blair, Darlington.

THE test of any organisation is how it copes with a crisis. So the train companies have recently been very tested with three crises at once.

How did they cope? At the beginning very well, organising station staff to provide information and coaches when trains were just too late to be useful. But what happened the other week? Did they run out of interest or did they all go off on holiday together for six days?

The regular commuters, of which I am one, were abandoned with the cosy message not to travel unless absolutely necessary as no trains were running. What happened to the coaches? Too expensive?

They have at least learned a valuable lesson from the Government in that placing public relations posters in stations saying sorry isn't enough. - MJ Gilbey, Hurworth, Darlington.


COULD I suggest Tony Richmond, Tory Prospective Parliamentary Candidate for Darlington, recites the letter he wrote (HAS, Nov 7) to his party leader William Hague?

Was it not the Tory Party which severed the earnings to pensions link and stopped free eye tests etc, thus robbing pensioners of valuable income?

This is what people will remember when thinking of how pensioners fared under Tory rule. - A Wilkinson, Redcar.


TOO close to call! But obvious enough to show what a sham is the so-called American democratic system.

Anyone can stand for election but the system demands the support of groups that can put up front millions of dollars in the campaign. Is that democracy?

Our politicians crawl to America to see how to run elections and behave like American Presidents. Why can't we do what is good for the British people and not follow America?

By all means be friends and co-operate, but I hope that this fiasco has put an end to the desire for Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee politics here.

Surely the slavish devotion to electronic gimmickry for voting should be ditched when so many of the US electorate claim that ballot papers were misleading and confusing.

We are asking for trouble in people staying away from the polls when the campaigns get "too close to call". We have avoided more and worse trouble from direct action because we have started to listen and act - keep doing it. - W Nunn, Shildon.


I AM dismayed by the media reports about the quality of hospital food.

My experience is such that at South Tees Hospital I can, despite being a vegetarian, only express praise and gratitude. - A Kirk, Middlesbrough.

Catterick BRIDGE

HAVING lived in Richmond for some time before returning to the Isle of Wight, I was very interested in the Eye In The Sky from the past showing Catterick Bridge (Echo, Oct 27). This area has so much history attached to it, it could be a tourist attraction.

As I understand it, the bridge was built in 1422 by or for William de Burgh, or Brough, who was a big landowner.

In the late 1700s, John Carr had to widen the bridge. In fact, if you look up at the bridge from ground level, under an arch, you can see the second bridge adjoinings.

There is a curve in the bridge wall and by, using a little imagination, one could surmise the curve was one of the "get out of the way of my horse" corners for foot people. If this really is the original (pre-wooden) bridge, the old bridge would have gone under the existing hotel.

The chapel beside the bridge was St Anne's Chantry (for travellers) and was incorporated into the John Carr half. It is still there in part because, inside a hole in the wall of the bridge, is a vaulted chamber. What a pity such an historic place is disregarded.

Nearby, under the bridge and along a little, is the ruin of St Giles' hospice, St Giles being the patron saint of cripples.

Opposite the Catterick Bridge Hotel is Holly Bank Farm. Holly is the modern distortion of the word holy. Paulinus baptised 10,000 in a day at Catterick - perhaps on that corner of the Swale now occupied by the farm on Holy Bank?

One far flung thought is that St Hilda of West Hartlepool and later Whitby was baptised at the age of 13 by Paulinus. Why not at Catterick? - M Wallis, Bainbridge, Isle of Wight.