TODAY the Diary launches a campaign to make the Royal Ascot traffic masterplan permanent.

Cars are not the Diary's strong point - we can barely distinguish a Jaguar from a Beetle - but we did notice there was a distinct lack of them last week.

Colleagues reported average commuting times slashed from three hours to 30 seconds. Motorists stopped to exchange pleasantries in the middle of Foss Island Road, children leapfrogged their way down Gillygate and harvest mice played kiss-chase along Lord Mayor's Walk.

(This experience may not have been replicated on the South Bank, but we don't live there any more.)

Who do we have to thank for this restoration of tranquillity? None other than Sgt Maj Peter Evely, who commanded the traffic from his secret bunker.

Now Mr Evely has re-emerged from his week-long exile, we say: give that man a knighthood!

All messages of support for our campaign gratefully received. It will be persecuted with the relentless vigour the Diary is famous for.

PERHAPS we could get the race traffic masterplan incorporated into the new Local Transport Plan. The consultation on this important strategy has caused some consternation, the Diary learns.

"The council has not made this consultation easy - the council's web pages on the Local Transport Plan were last updated on October 6, 2004," commented Matthew Page of the York Cycle Campaign earlier this month (although it seems to have been updated since).

Transport expert Jonathan Tyler begins his submission: "The absence of detail in the local transport plan leaflet undermines the ability of citizens and representative organisations to comment sensibly on it, and it is doubtful whether it meets the standards for proper consultation to which the City of York Council aspires."

And last month Green councillor Andy D'Agorne pondered quite why things had been so difficult. He asked: "Could it be that the absence of these documents is a political action to discourage responses, given that the view of the ruling group does not accord with those coming out of the stakeholder groups that radical action to curb pollution and congestion has to be part of the measures considered?"

DARTH Vader made a shock appearance at Royal Ascot, we learn. A Royal Enclosure member baffled security when he arrived wearing the Star Wars mask.

Asked why he had ditched the usual toff top hat, the masked man said it was "because I'm from the dark side". But security guards failed to see the light side - and quickly made the man, Victor Buchanan, show his face.

SIR Clement Freud on Royal Ascot At York: "There are rumours that the whole venture... is a rehearsal for Glorious Goodwood at Pontefract."

LAST week The Times ran a tongue-in-cheek piece by "Lydie Hisserton-Lopley", (aka the journalist Lydia Hislop), bemoaning the move of Ascot to "Yorkhamptonshire".

This prompted an excellent reply by Lesley Ann Jones of Copmanthorpe: "We were delighted to hear that next year Ascot will once more be 'at home'," she wrote. "This will allow us Yorkingshire yokels to sit in our living rooms, three ducks on the wall (flying in formation of course) cup of tea, (no mug of tea) in hand watching the Origami-style cake decorations in various colours, otherwise known as ladies' fashions, parade in their pantomime dame finery."

Updated: 09:45 Monday, June 20, 2005