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Freight Train on Fire

Fire EngineA freight train transporting oil and diesel has derailed and caught fire in Scotland. The accident happened at around 6.15am near Stewarton in Ayrshire. One carriage is alight but no-one was injured in the incident, Strathclyde Police said.

The train - travelling between Mossend in Ayrshire and Riccarton near Kilmarnock - hit a pylon after the rear section of the ten-wagon freight train became derailed about half a mile from Stewarton.

Scottish Power said up to 100 homes in the Kilmaurs area of Ayrshire have lost electricity as a result of the crash.

Strathclyde Fire & Rescue said there are six fire pumps and a heavy rescue vehicle at the scene.

Chief Superintendent Martin Ripley, of British Transport Police, said: "A freight train which was coming in to the depot has caught fire. The freight train is carrying diesel."

Two carriages were thought to be on fire and he said: "I believe it's a fairly big and intensive fire."

One of those carriages, carrying diesel, had come off the line.

But the officer said: "I can tell you there are not injuries and the matter is contained.

"We have experts coming to the scene and hopefully, towards the end of the day, we may be in a better position to establish why this has happened."

Network Rail said disruption is likely to go on for much of the day.

Local train services between Barrhead in East Renfrewshire and Kilmarnock have been stopped and alternative arrangements put in place for travellers.

Buses are replacing trains between Barrhead and Kilmarnock. Meanwhile, the Glasgow to Carlisle service is running via Barassie.

A British Transport Police (BTP) spokesman said: "BTP can confirm that at approximately 6.25am this morning we received reports of a freight train on fire outside Stewarton rail station in Ayrshire.

"No injuries have been reported and the driver has been accounted for. The local fire brigade is on scene alongside BTP officers. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch has been informed and are attending."

The freight train is operated by DB Schenker.

A spokesman for the firm said: "Shortly after 6am this morning, a train conveying aviation fuel from Mossend to Prestwick in six wagons became derailed.

"Five wagons are derailed and one wagon is on fire. The emergency services are in attendance and there have been no injuries."

NHS is Ageist

NHSA study by the British Geriatrics Society said out of 201 doctors asked 47 per cent believe the NHS discriminates against older people.

Two-thirds said they are less likely to have their symptoms fully investigated and nearly three-quarters think they are less likely to be referred for essential treatment.

And 55 per cent said they were worried themselves about how the NHS would treat them in old age.

Age discrimination in the workplace has been illegal since 2006, but the new Equality Bill is intended to tackle more widespread forms.

The Government has said it will take around 18 months to draft regulations on how rules relating to age discrimination in health and social care should be implemented.

Alex Mair, chief executive of the BGS, said: "What this research makes clear is that the NHS is currently failing older people.

"We need to ensure that patients of all ages receive the very best care, regardless of their age."

Care services minister Phil Hope said: "The Equality Bill will allow us to end unfair age discrimination in the NHS and social care and Government is committed to making this happen as soon as possible.

"It is vital we get the legislation right to ensure there are no unintended consequences - such as service providers withdrawing beneficial age based practices. We need to bring in changes over time, to make sure we get it right."

Help the Aged's Kate Jopling, said: "The right time to pass the new age regulations is alongside the new Bill, so that older people will be protected as soon as possible.

"If this opportunity is missed older people could be left waiting indefinitely for the same protections other groups already enjoy."

Attenborough gets hate mail from viewers

Sir David AttenboroughSir David Attenborough has revealed that he gets hate mail from viewers for not crediting God in his documentaries.

The veteran broadcaster, who is presenting a new series on Charles Darwin, said that he has received letters telling him to burn in hell because of his views on evolution.

He told Radio Times that he is often asked why he does not credit God when talking about some of the creatures featured on his shows: "They always mean beautiful things like hummingbirds. I always reply by saying that I think of a little child in east Africa with a worm burrowing through his eyeball.

"The worm cannot live in any other way, except by burrowing through eyeballs. I find that hard to reconcile with the notion of a divine and benevolent creator."

He also revealed that he doesn't think creationism should be taught alongside evolution in schools and added: "It's like saying that two and two equals four, but if you wish to believe it, it could also be five.

"Evolution is not a theory; it is a fact, every bit as much as the historical fact that William the Conqueror landed in 1066."

Are you shocked to hear that Sir David receives hate mail? What do you think of his views?

Lobbyists come under scrutiny

House of LordsThe influence of lobbyists in the House of Lords will come under increasing scrutiny as official inquiries continue into the cash-for-influence row engulfing four Labour peers.

Lobbyists under scrutiny in peers probe

Lords Leader Baroness Royall has pledged to toughen the upper chamber's anti-sleaze rules as she launched two parliamentary probes into claims Labour members were ready to change legislation in return for money.

Lord Truscott, Lord Moonie, Lord Taylor of Blackburn and Lord Snape are accused of entering into negotiations, involving fees of up to £120,000, with Sunday Times reporters posing as lobbyists for a foreign firm.

All four strenuously deny any wrongdoing but they face the possibility of a police probe after the Liberal Democrats filed a complaint with Scotland Yard.

And Lord Moonie, a former defence minister, also faces separate questions over his decision to give a Parliamentary pass to someone previously stripped of such access because of his arms industry lobbying links.

The four peers will give evidence to the House of Lords interests sub-committee privately this week, while Lady Royall has been holding talks with them in her role as Labour's leader in the second chamber.

Answering an urgent question on the issue, Lady Royall said the sub-committee on interests had already started investigating and that the chairman of the Privileges Committee, Lord Brabazon of Tara, was carrying out a wider review of punishments, raising suggestions peers caught breaking rules could face expulsion or suspension.

Currently peers found to have broken conduct rules can only be ordered to apologise to the House.

House Prices Set to Fall

House PricesThe credit squeeze for families and businesses looks set to intensify into 2009 despite unprecedented measures to recapitalise the banking system and get lending flowing again, a survey showed Friday.

The grim news came as a deluge of data suggested the economy was plunging deeper into recession.

A survey from Halifax, the country's biggest mortgage lender, showed house prices fell a record annual 16.2 percent last month. Bank of England figures showed mortgage approvals slumped to a record low in November and a survey of purchasing managers showed manufacturing activity contracted in December for an eighth month running.

"There's no let-up in sight," said George Johns, an economist at Barclays Capital.

The pound resumed its slide on the foreign exchanges and two-year gilt yields fell below 1 percent for the first time as traders bet the Bank of England will deliver another hefty rate cut next week.

Interest rates have already been slashed to 2 percent, their lowest level since 1951. With the economy battered by the worst financial storm for 80 years, markets are pricing in another cut of at least half a percentage point next Thursday.

"Today's weak data is likely to add to the list of reasons for the Monetary Policy Committee to cut aggressively next week," said Amit Kara, an economist at UBS.

Kara expects rates to be cut to just 1 percent next week and to 0.5 percent by March. Interest rates have never gone below 2 percent since the central bank was created in 1694.


Evidence that banks are still reining in lending will be embarrassing for the government which has pumped billions of taxpayers' money into the country's major banks in return for pledges that lending would be maintained.

Bank of England Governor Mervyn King has singled out bank lending as the single most pressing challenge facing policymakers and warned that banks may need further injections of money if financial conditions worsen.

The Bank's quarterly credit conditions survey showed lenders had reduced the availability of both secured and unsecured credit in the fourth quarter of last year and expected to cut back further in the next three months.

A vicious downward spiral -- in which falling house prices make banks reluctant to lend, pushing prices down further -- may prove difficult to break.

Halifax figures showed house prices fell by a record 16.2 percent year-on-year in the three months to December, taking them to their lowest level since August 2004. House prices have already shed some 20 percent from their 2007 peak, falling even faster than in the last recession of the early 1990s.

Moreover, the pace of house prices show no sign of slowing.

Mortgage approvals for house purchase -- a leading indicator of the market -- fell to just 27,000 in November, the lowest level since the series began in January 1999 and a third of its level a year ago.

"There's no end in sight to the pain in the housing market," said Matthew Sharratt, an economist at Bank of America.