Azara Blog: Britain's airports could run out of runway space

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Date published: 2006/11/20

The BBC says:

Britain's airports could run out of runway space for aircraft within 15 years if aviation growth is left unchecked, a report says.

The report by 60 local authorities also says the aviation sector is one of only a few industries planning to increase its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions.

The Strategic Aviation Special Interest Group (Sasig) wants Downing Street to curb growth.

The government is aiming for a 60% cut in CO2 emissions by 2050.

Sasig said the government had "seriously underestimated" future demand for air travel.

It is calling for a full review of the 2003 Aviation White Paper, which published growth forecasts.

One option the government could follow was to ensure the rate of annual growth was cut from 5% to 2%, the report said.

This could be brought about by a "polluter-pays" tax on air travel, it adds.

At the same time, train services could be improved to make rail services a more viable alternative to short-haul flights.

Isn't it amazing that the "polluter-pays" principle should apply to air travel (and driving) but not to train services. There is hardly a train service in the world that does not receive a massive public subsidy, and that is just a business subsidy and completely ignores the environmental damage that trains cause, which is also not paid for by train customers, and the other implicit subsidies train services receive (e.g. having priority over cars at intersections). By all means air travel should pay for its environmental damage. But so should train travel, and train travel should also not be given any business subsidy, which represents an indirect consumption of energy, and so an indirect CO2 emission. Why should a teacher who lives and works in Cambridge by subsidising a rich London commuter who takes the train every day from Cambridge to London and back?

The reason that "Britain's airports could run out of runway space" is exactly because there are plenty of organisations like Sasig which are trying to prevent airport expansion. And so what if "the aviation sector is one of only a few industries planning to increase its CO2 emissions". If the people of Britain want to spend their CO2 allowance on air travel rather than some other, allegedly more politically correct, activity, then the ruling elite have no reason to stop this and should just shut up. It's like complaining that computers, in total, are using more and more electricity, because more and more people can afford computers. It's a nonsense argument.

And the government is just as likely to have "seriously overestimated", as underestimated, future demand for air travel. The main reason many people do not fly more now is not because of the cost of the flight but because of the sheer hassle involved, and the cost of accomodation at the other end. And no doubt the members of Sasig, since they are part of the ruling elite, fly abroad much more often than the average British citizen. If they so hate air travel, they should not themselves ever fly, even on "business".

Unfortunately there are far too many organisations like Sasig which just have a knee-jerk hatred of aviation (for mainly political reasons) and so have nothing to add to the debate. They should just be ignored.

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