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Tory rail bias will harm regional economies says bmi

17th September 2007 Print
bmi, the second-largest airline at London’s Heathrow airport and one of the largest provider of air services to the regions, said today’s submission to the Shadow Cabinet by the Conservative Party’s Quality of Life Policy Group contained rail-biased proposals which would damage the country’s regional economies as well as UK plc itself if adopted.

Nigel Turner, chief executive of bmi group plc, said:

“Air routes into Britain’s major airports, especially Heathrow, are vital for Britain’s regional towns and cities. Without such links, offering onward connections to hundreds of global destinations, the attractiveness of many cities as investment and trade destinations would be severely reduced.

“Should the economies of Leeds, Bradford or Manchester suffer purely for a soundbite-led transport policy? These rail-biased proposals, if actually introduced, would cause severe harm to the economies of many of the UK’s regions.

“Short haul air travel is already taxed at a disproportionate rate thanks to air passenger duty, the tax originally sold to the British public as one which would be used to offset the environmental impact of air travel. Domestic travel is doubly-hit, because passengers pay the tax going in both directions.

“By comparison, rail operators receive subsidies from Government, and do not have to charge any other passenger duty to cover the environmental impact of their operations. The pendulum has already swung far enough in their favour.”

Nigel Turner pointed to the significant improvements made by the air travel industry over recent years and said that air travel should be recognised as a British success story. He said:

“bmi, like other British airlines, has invested heavily in modernising its fleet and its operations over recent years, leading to significant reductions in the environmental impact of each passenger we carry. We have made that investment at our own cost, without subsidy or other Government support.

“Despite this, and despite the tens of millions contributed by our passengers every year to the Treasury through APD, politicians are quick to treat airlines as easy political fodder.

“Air travel is the lifeblood of the modern economy – and Britain has developed one of the most successful, and most responsible, airline industries in the world. If we act against that industry – in favour of one which has swallowed billions of public money in subsidies – we will hurt UK plc now and in the long term.”