Darling says: Dines right, Girling wrong

WHEN on February 18 this year, I questioned in this column Suffolk county council's decision to oppose the upgrading of the A12 in Essex, I was roundly condemned by then sustainable Suffolk portfolio holder, Joan Girling.

WHEN on February 18 this year, I questioned in this column Suffolk county council's decision to oppose the upgrading of the A12 in Essex, I was roundly condemned by then sustainable Suffolk portfolio holder, Joan Girling. She said that one day she would "teach me" the fundamentals of 21st century transport planning.

I'm still waiting for my seminar. Perhaps she also tried to enrol Transport Secretary Alistair Darling onto her course, but he has dismissed out of hand Suffolk's objections and announced a £1bn investment in Essex's roads, including the widening of the A12 from Colchester to the M25.

Suffolk took it upon itself to object to the findings of the London to Ipswich (LOIS) multi-modal study, which recommended the A12 project to get rid of what I described back in February as the "nightmare" hazard of the trunk road changing from dual two to dual three lanes every few miles.

The Transport Secretary has decided to upgrade the road, "one of the main arteries in East Anglia, vital to the economic prosperity or Essex and Suffolk" to again quote myself from February 18.


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The road improvement was vital, and has been approved because of the virtual impossibility of increasing track capacity on the rail line to the capital. I'm told it would be near impossible to reconstruct Marks Tey, Kelvedon, Witham, Hatfield Peverell and Ingatestone stations while there is nothing that can be done with the brick viaduct at Chelmsford unless it is closed for perhaps two years while a brand new bridge is built south of the station.

The only other option would be two French-style high speed lines on a totally different alignment from Shenfield to Marks Tey, looping around Chelmsford and linking with Crossrail, the west-east London project given the goa-herad yesterday by Mr Darling. But the amount of cash this would involve weighed against a saving in journey time of perhaps only 10 minutes ruled it out.

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IPSWICH'S household composting scheme has come off the rails. "Bureaucratic and unnecessary" rules from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which came into force on July 1, restricts councils converting green waste into compost if it contains kitchen waste. Harold Mangar, the borough council's executive environment spokesman, called it a "daft directive" and has asked the town's Labour MP Chris Mole to intervene.

Meanwhile, Ipswich householders wanting to know what to do with their now useless kitchen mini brown bins should follow my lead – I've turned mine into a wine cooler, ideal is this hot weather.

LAST night, I went to Iain Duncan Smith's summer drinks reception for journalists in London. He's still seething from Tony Blair's smear in Prime Minister's Questions on Wednesday that IDS had been privately briefed in February about the so-called "dodgy dossier" on Saddam Hussein's yet-to-be- found weapons of mass destruction.

"You can retract that for a start" shouted IDS across the Commons chamber, maintaining he read it first in the newspapers. "Nobody believes a word the Prime Minister says any more" – and according to the opinion polls, it seems the Tory leader may at last be on to a winner.

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