News headlines: The big freeze, speed cameras and 'hacked' cars

With stories of the downside of motoring in many newspapers, who'd be a motorist?

The Daily Telegraph leads on the "soaring" number of speeding fines being issued - thanks to digital speed cameras.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Speeding convictions are at their highest level since the Coalition came to power

The paper says more than 115,000 motorists in England and Wales were fined at least £100 each, thanks in part to new cameras which do not use film but relay images to a distant control centre.

"The Association of British Drivers (ABD) said there was little evidence that speed cameras actually reduced road accidents and suggested that speeding tickets were now simply being used as a cash cow," the Telegraph notes.

Police force areas seeing a boom in fines include Essex; Avon and Somerset; Hampshire; Lancashire; Gwent and Staffordshire, it adds.

The paper's editorial has some sympathy with the ABD view, writing that, "If cameras are to save lives, they should be placed in such a fashion as to deter speeding at accident black spots, not along ordinary roads" so motorists view the flash of a speed camera with remorse rather resentment.

Parking fines are the driving woe chronicled in the Sun.

The paper says that councils were "raking in" a record £1.4bn in such charges.

It notes, "the amount comes despite a pledge by Communities Secretary Eric Pickles two years ago to expose the 'great council cash cow cover-up'".

Image copyright Which?

The Sun adds that Tory councils were at the top of the charge league, with the most fine-happy being Westminster, which raises £80.6m from parking fines - equivalent to £733 for each of the borough's residents.

The paper turns its ire on Mr Pickles in its editorial, thundering: "if there's one thing no one can stand, it's politicians who preach one thing, and practise another".

But if you're doing the right speed and not parking illegally, at least you're safe in your car right?

Wrong! According to the Times, which leads on experts' fears that hackers could exploit the wireless internet technology in modern cars to "access and control a car's systems, including braking and acceleration.

"Security researchers have shown that they access a car's internal computer system... through a car radio or Bluetooth and wirelesss networks".

Best leave it in the garage, perhaps!


'Bid adieu'

Apart from all that, ice and snow - the natural hazards of driving - are set to tighten their grip on many parts of the UK.

The Daily Star - never a paper to resist a bit of hyperbole - says "an icy winter hell" .

One meteorologist tells the paper, "Some areas will be plastered by snow - it's the nightmare after Christmas".

Image copyright PA
Image caption A member of the public's picture of Liverpool John Lennon Airport on Friday: it's grim up North

The Daily Telegraph notes that the Met Office has issued its second most severe cold weather warning, amid temperatures expected to fall as low as -14C in some areas next week.

"The cold snap comes as a low-pressure system tracks from the Atlantic over central and southern England, bringing with it a period of sleet and snow. Strong winds are also expected to exacerbate the chilly air.

"Meanwhile, parts of Northern Ireland and in England, as far south east as London and Kent, have been put on a separate yellow alert for snow by the Met Office.," the paper reports.

The Daily Express says people are being urged to keep an eye on elderly relatives and neighbours to prevent a recurrence of the 31,000 extra winter deaths that took place in the "horrendous" winter of two years ago.

Public Health England is quoted in the paper as saying, "We advise people to keep active in the home, have plenty of warm food and drinks and maintain indoor temperatures to at least 64F (18C)."

But as the Daily Mail notes, it's not "icy hell" for everyone.

"Skiers in the snow-starved French Alps prepared to bid adieu to one of the worst starts to the season," it writes.

"A severe blizzard this weekend dumped 24in of snow in the northern Alps."


'Firm's symbol'

Having a poor festive season are the employees of parcel delivery firm City Link, who were told on Christmas Day that the firm was going into administration.

The Daily Mirror points an angry finger of blame for the firm's collapse at Tory donor Jon Moulton, whose investment firm bought City Link for £1 last year.

The paper says Mr Moulton's private equity firm Better Capital, "claimed it could turn the struggling firm around.

Image copyright Reuters

"Instead it was put into administration late on Christmas Eve, with the decision confirmed through trade unions the next day."

A source at Better Capital is quoted as telling the BBC that there was "very much regret" over the decision.

City Link van driver Simon Judd tells the Mirror, "I was having a great Christmas until I was told by my union that City Link was putting everyone out of work - including me.

"Nobody from the company has contacted me. I found out by email from the RMT.

"I'm a sub-contracted driver at a depot in Chelmsford. The majority of us are on a freelance deal because City Link got rid of most of its staff drivers in the past year.

"As part of my deal I had to rent a liveried van, which is sitting on my driveway with the firm's symbol on it. There's no way I can get a new job with the same van.

"Many people feel misled. We asked the management about job losses weeks ago when a rumour went around. They rejected those rumours. Now look where we are."

The Financial Times reports that the RMT union has urged Business Secretary to intervene over the "disgraceful" timing of the announcement, which it suggested was an attempt to "minimise scrutiny and ensure there is a delay taking action".

Image caption Vince Cable: urged to intervene

The paper adds that Mr Cable has agreed to meet unions and said he wants his department to keep "abreast of developments".

The Guardian says the collapse puts at risk almost 4,000 jobs, as the firm's 2,727 staff nationwide are supplemented by 1,000 self-employed drivers and agency workers.

It adds that unions say the true figure will top 5,000, once the supply chain is taken into account.

Mr Moulton dismisses claims that his firm "asset stripped" City Link.

He tells the Guardian, "If this is an asset strip, it is an extremely poor one because we will have lost a lot of money. "

The paper notes Better Capital " failed to stem [City Link's] losses despite putting workers on fresh contracts, which paid staff on a per-parcel basis and required drivers to pay for their own vans, uniforms and petrol."

It adds the firm's army of freelancers - who this summer had to buy new company uniforms - "will not be entitled to any redundancy payments made by the administrators and some could even lose deposits put down on leased vehicles".


Inconsistencies

Boxing Day is the biggest day traditionally for hunt meets, and the day after - almost equally traditionally - has the papers full of comments about the spectacle, and blood sports generally.

The Daily Telegraph headlines that a "quarter of a million turn out for hunts" on Friday.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Fox hunting: either an "integral part of rural life" or a "toxic" issue to voters, depending on who's viewpoint you take

The figure comes from pro-hunting organisation the Countryside Alliance, and is not independently verified.

The paper pictures celebrity hunt supporters including UKIP leader Nigel Farage (pictured, naturally, with pint in hand) and TV presenter Jeremy Clarkson.

The paper says, "hunt members and countryside groups welcomed the Conservative Party's plans, disclosed by the Telegraph, to include a manifesto pledge promising to offer MPs a free vote on repealing the hunting ban if it wins the general election.

A Countryside Alliance spokeswoman tells the paper: "We think the whole [hunting ban] needs to be thrown out. We are happy for hunting to be regulated but we feel the Hunting Act as it's written has a lot of inconsistencies, is very difficult for even judges to fathom."

A hunt supporter in Gloucestershire adds that a pledge to abandon the ban on hunting foxes with a pack of hounds would "absolutely be a vote winner", but the aptly named Lorraine Fox of a Conservative anti-hunting lobby group says the issue is "toxic" to the perception of the party.

The paper notes an opinion poll carried out in 2013 suggests 80% of the public supported the retention of the ban.

Amongst the "antis" is the Daily Mirror, whose headline - written above pictures of traditionally clad hunts persons - is "10 years since hunt ban and they're still prancing around.

"Dressing up in silly costumes and parading around at this time of year is fine if you're a kid - but this lot should know better," the paper begins its article.

So... not fans then?

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