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In the news today - 23rd June

An official report on eco-towns will today find that only 'two or three will have real eco credentials' and that most of the 15 proposals are 'just housing estates in the countryside with a green label attached'...

...The report by a panel of leading experts in town planning, house building, transport and environment issues will send most of the proposals back to planners with a "must do better note" - The Daily Telegraph

Network Rail is to study the feasibility of five high speed lines along some of Britain's busiest routes in the biggest track building project since the 19th century. Last year, the highest number of passengers travelled by train since the demob year of 1946, and growth is predicted to rise by another 30% over the next decade - The Independent

The government's plans to overhaul GCSEs and A-levels with a new diploma have been dealt a devastating blow after the largest business group withdrew its support, saying there was no appetite among employers for the reforms. The Confederation of British Industry today warns the schools secretary, Ed Balls, that the education system is too overloaded to cope with the new qualification and that the ultimate plan to replace A-levels and GCSEs should be dropped - The Guardian

Sellafield nuclear reprocessing plant will run a state school under the biggest-ever expansion of the Government's academy programme, The Daily Telegraph can reveal. The company responsible for for the controversial plant - Sellafield Ltd - is among three organisations behind one of the new schools in Cumbria - The Daily Telegraph

Government plans for a new generation of nuclear power stations risk delays after warnings by its own inspectors that no decision can be made on reactor designs because of a shortage of skilled engineers. Delays in receiving documentation from various parties and the difficulties of talking to overseas regulators and receiving final reactor designs are referred to in a letter from Mike Weightman, chief inspector at the Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII), to the Department for Business Enterprise and Regulatory Reform - The Guardian

Home owners could be forced to improve the insulation and energy efficiency of their properties when carrying out renovation work as part of a landmark strategy on energy to be unveiled by the government this week. Ministers are also considering offering grants, low-cost loans and other incentives to encourage households to install solar panels and wind turbines, as well as introducing legislation to outlaw inefficient appliances such as oil-fired boilers - The Daily Telegraph

Solar panels will soon grace the roofs of the quiet medieval town of Marburg, Germany under a controversial new law forcing owners of all new or renovated buildings in its limits to include solar panels, setting a national precedent. A coalition of Social Democrats and Greens passed the ruling late on Friday to counter climate change and soaring energy prices. Anyone failing to comply will face a €1,000 (£790) fine - The Guardian

Employers have begun a further round of cuts to their final-salary retirement schemes as the credit crunch and expected economic slowdown take their toll. More than a quarter of employers have followed Rentokil's recent example and switched off their final-salary schemes to existing employees or are considering the move in the next 12 months, PricewaterhouseCoopers says in a report out today - The Guardian

Systemic weaknesses in the management structure of Network Rail have caused repeated and unnecessary delays to long-suffering passengers, a group of MPs claims today. Launching a People's Rail campaign to shake up the management structure of the not-for-dividend rail operator, the Co-operative party group of MPs calls for reforms to make it easier for ordinary people to join Network Rail's members' council and make the board more accountable - The Guardian

Secret government data on contentious plans to build a second runway at Stansted airport must be made public, the privacy watchdog has ordered, in a ruling that further extends ministers' duties to reveal confidential internal advice – Financial Times

The United Arab Emirates has implemented new anti-money laundering regulations as it seeks to meet international standards of financial compliance. The central bank last week notified banks and exchange houses of the 13 new regulations that update the UAE's first anti-money laundering controls, which came into force in November 2000 - Financial Times

In the world of public art, size matters, it seems. Artists are trying to outdo one another in constructing Britain's tallest sculpture. Works such as Antony Gormley's The Angel of the North in Tyne and Wear are being dwarfed by another public art commission, a slender tubular steel lattice that will rise 60m (almost 200 ft) over Nottingham – The Times

A quarter of the building materials needed for the 2012 London Olympics site will be transported by water after completion of a £20M project to make disused waterways in East London navigable for the first time in decades. The move is part of a nationwide resurgence in the use of waterways and canals for freight, as transport groups, manufacturers and retailers look for cheaper ways to move goods – The Times

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