Lord Adonis is delivering rather a lot of sense and good news to those of us who are concerned and have to live with the effect of unfettered flight expansion at any cost.
The push for high speed trains to stop the nonsense of the ridiculous and harmful expansion of short haul flights can only be good. Not only that, it will deliver sustainable jobs in the infrastructure required, and the running of the services. And the down side? Well it's hard to see any.
One of our residents tells us they lived by a busy railway line for over 20 years - but that it by no way compared to London City Airport jets, or the general disruptive noise that expanding aviation inflicts on communities.Harmful emissions? Well trains have a few, but they are nowhere near the levels that aviation omit, nor do they require anywhere near the amounts of energy that aircraft require to operate in a world that's oil is just not going to last. A high speed rail network compareable to France's TGV is clearly the answer.
So while London City Airport and other airports and airlines who rely on damaging short haul flights to line their pockets say boo hoo, and throw their toys out of the pram to this news: we say thank you Lord Adonis - you have recognised what others have failed to see for too long.
Article in todays Guardian online:
Government unveils high-speed rail plan to ground short flights
Replacing plane journeys with ultra-fast train services 'manifestly in the public interest', transport secretary says
Dan Milmo and Julian Glover guardian.co.uk,
Tuesday 4 August 2009 19.22 BST Article history
Andrew Adonis: High-speed rail travel is possible in the UK Link to this video.
The government has made the demise of domestic air travel an explicit policy target for the first time by aiming to replace short-haul flights with a new 250mph high-speed rail network.
The transport secretary, Lord Adonis, said switching 46 million domestic air passengers a year to a multibillion-pound north-south rail line was "manifestly in the public interest". Marking a government shift against aviation, Adonis added that rail journeys should be preferred to plane trips.
"For reasons of carbon reduction and wider environmental benefits, it is manifestly in the public interest that we systematically replace short-haul aviation with high-speed rail. But we would have to have, of course, the high-speed network before we can do it," he said.
In an interview with the Guardian to launch a three-day special report on high-speed rail, Adonis revealed that plans for a new generation of ultra-fast train services are well advanced. They include:
• The publication by the end of the year of a route from London to Birmingham, including the framework to extend the line northward to Scotland.
• Building cross-party support for the network, which could see a line to the West Midlands built by 2020.
• Running high-speed trains on the existing network, which could reduce journey times from London to Scotland to three and a half hours.
• Possibly funding the £7bn London-to-Birmingham line with a public-private partnership.
Adonis said domestic and European flights to and from the UK, which carry 169 million passengers on 1.9m trips a year, should be "progressively replaced" by a high-speed rail network that will relieve congestion on existing lines and shorten train journey times across the UK.
Flights to north-west Europe are the most realistic target, after airline sources warned that further-flung destinations such as Madrid or Prague are still expected to be dominated by air travel. Short-haul flights are the most popular journey in British aviation, accounting for seven out of 10 flights. But train travel is also popular in the UK –the British public already make 1.3bn passenger rail journeys each year – so Adonis hopes it will make a serious dent in the use of short-haul air travel.
"I would like to see short-haul aviation – not just domestic aviation, but short-haul aviation – progressively replaced by rail, including high-speed rail," Adonis said. "If we want to see [this] progressive replacement … then we have got to have a high-speed rail system that links our major conurbations and makes them far more accessible to Europe, too."
The government has pledged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 80% by 2050, prompting ministers to push for use of electric cars and more investment in cycle routes. Against that backdrop, Adonis said rail should take priority over air travel.
Last night the British Air Transport Association (Bata), whose members include British Airways, Flybe and BMI – all carriers with domestic operations – said the government would not be able to eliminate flights within the UK altogether.
Roger Wiltshire, Bata secretary general, said there were still flights from the UK to Paris and Brussels despite the high-speed Eurostar service. "There are high-speed networks in France, Germany and Japan but they still have domestic air routes between their major cities. It does not have to be a question of one or the other."
Adonis's comments were welcomed by campaigners who, earlier this year, berated the government for backing a third runway at Heathrow. Richard Hebditch, campaigns director at the Campaign for Better Transport, said: "It does not make sense to be flying short distances if there is a direct rail alternative. This clearly marks a major shift away from previous government policy and the government now needs to revisit its decision on Heathrow."
However, Adonis said a high-speed rail scheme would not undermine an aviation policy that calls for new runways at Stansted and Heathrow over the next decade.
"If you look at projections for long-haul air demand the third runway just on long- haul demand alone is justified," he said. According to government estimates, air passenger numbers will nearly double to 465 million a year by 2030.
A high-speed line will have to be the UK's main infrastructure project if it is to go ahead. "If we make it a national priority, then it is affordable. If we don't, then it is not. It's as simple as that," Adonis said. He has established a company to draw up plans, to be submitted to the Department for Transport later this year.