Domestic UK flights take off thanks to high rail fares

24.12.2007       (Times)   Ben Webster

Domestic air travel has risen by a third in 7 years despite a record amount of
public money spent on the railways and official advice to avoid flying within
Britain.   New routes are starting between destinations that are fewer than 200
miles apart and which are connected by rail and trunk roads.

A daily service between Southampton and Newquay will start next summer, and there
are already 2 flights a day from Norwich to Manchester and 2 from Bristol to Plymouth.

Airlines offer 50,000 seats a week between London and Manchester, despite the
two cities being served by a fast train every 30 minutes that takes just over
2 hours.

Flybe, Britain’s biggest domestic airline, says that it is benefiting from high
train fares and recent timetable changes, which have sharply reduced the number
of through trains.   Passengers on Cross-Country, the long-distance train company,
are now often forced to change at Birmingham on routes which last year were served
by through trains.

An analysis of airline schedules conducted for The Times by OAG, an air travel
information company, reveals that 40 million seats were available on domestic
air services in 2007, compared with 30 million in 2001.

There were 454,000 domestic flights this year, more than 1,200 every day, compared
with 391,000 in 2001.   Some airlines have switched to larger aircraft.

Of the Top Ten domestic air routes in terms of available seats, only London to
Belfast and London to Jersey are not served by a direct 125mph rail service.

However, air fares have halved over the past decade while the cost of long-distance
rail travel has risen by almost 30%.   A return airline ticket in the morning peak
between London and Manchester costs as little as £80 while the standard class
open return train fare is £230.

Jim French, Flyebe’s chief executive, said: "The high cost of rail is making
it much more attractive to fly."

Environmental groups argue that domestic flights are fuelling demand for new
and expanded runways. Jeff Gazzard, the co-ordinator of the Greenskies Alliance,
said: "Flying around the UK and to near-European neighbours needs to be made socially
unacceptable. Taking the train from Newcastle and Manchester to London should
be the only choice for business and the individual traveller."


This news makes government progress towards a low carbon economy a total sham.
What is worse is that the Department for Transport is directly driving the growth
of domestic flights. It does this by permitting the Train Operating Companies
to increase fares that in turn enables those companies to pay the DfT the huge
annual premiums demanded in new franchise agreements (e.g. First Great Western,
Nat Express East Coast). The income received is used to widen roads and support
airport expansion. What a total farce !


Andrew Wood, London, England


454,000 domestic flights?? That is nothing short of absolutely crackpot absurd.
What the hell is this government doing saying that domestic flights should be
reduced when there are more flights between our cities than train services!

£230 is a true figure and it’s really sad that the “price them off the railways”
intention is still in full flow. It’s really barmy in a time when we need to reduce
carbon dioxide emissions that air travel is so cheap domestically.

I’m really suprised to read this article; I had no idea that there were so many
domestic flights occuring every day. I will never vote for those clowns currently
in office ever again. I actually care about what the world will be like in fifty
years from now.

The good old Lord Wellington doctrine of discouraging rail travel to keep the
masses in their area of designation is still in full effect.


K Rogers, Preston, Lancashire