I won the ballot for Topical Oral Question, for the first time, on 20th April with this question: To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the passing of a law by the National Assembly of France to prohibit domestic flights to destinations that can be reached by train in two and a half hours or less, what consideration they have given to reducing domestic air travel in the United Kingdom.
I asked a question about whether the government would consider copying the French ban on domestic flights? It would make a big impact on CO2 emissions. For example, there were 42 flights a day from London to Manchester in pre-pandemic times.
A recent survey of businesses using European flights found that few had suffered any economic loss as a result of not flying and around a fifth of companies saw the shift as a permanent change that would bring financial benefit.
In 2016, 20.6 million flights (8.9% of total UK air travel) were domestic. Much of it driven by aviations uneven cost advantages over rail. UK train fares are the highest in Europe. The Government is responsible: as it regulates 60% of train fares. Since 1997, train fares have risen in real terms by 7% while the cost of motoring has fallen by 13% and the price of one-way flights from UK airports has, on average, halved. Regional airports tax breaks add to this advanatge.
With only a third of businesses expected to return to the same level of flying as before the coronavirus pandemic, it makes no sense to expand airports. Despite this, the Minister refused to give any reassurance that expansion would be halted.