The article starts with a dramatic statement:
“Britain has become a nation addicted to flying”
and continues from there to discuss the relationships between long haul flight, short haul flight, climate change, increased travel taxes and carbon offsets.
Okay let’s start from the beginning.
- This is an island. It is remarkably difficult to get off said island without flying and it is unlikely that concerns about climate change are likely to alter that simple fact.
- Although I think the train system here is quite remarkable, it does struggle to compete price-wise. Some examples that spring to mind: a round trip flight London to Dublin set me back £24. The rail fare to the airport (30 miles) to take the flight ran £15. My trip to Nottingham last week was nearly £50. A colleague in Nottingham who was from Glasgow ran me through the numbers and both in terms of time and cost, it was orders of magnitude easier to fly to Glasgow than to take the train.
- Increased taxes on air travel are unlikely to tip the balance against air travel in an era of increasing globalization.
While the economics of the rail-air-environmental debate will rage on ad nauseum, point 1 is unlikely to change any time soon. This is a small over-crowded island and people are aching to leave it on occasion, both for work and for pleasure. What is unclear to me is why there is such an apparent divergence in the rail vs airfares in terms of price per mile traveled even without leaving this island. Until the Ryanairs of the world cease to exist, even for medium-haul travel on this island the low-cost airlines seem likely to win this battle. The environmental war will simply have to be waged on other fronts.