29th August 2003

BAA Attack on Role of High Speed Rail “Laughable”

BAA’s attempt to justify the relentless growth of Stansted Airport by writing off the role that the railways could play in addressing future transport needs within the UK is laughable say Stop Stansted Expansion campaigners, responding to a press release issued by the airport operator today (29 August).

And, say campaigners, this latest bleat makes it obvious that the airport operator is running scared of the reality that an improved railway service – notably high speed rail links – could actually give a better deal to many travellers, significantly reduce pollution impacts and avoid the destruction of irreplaceable heritage and countryside.

Commented Stop Stansted Expansion Chairman Norman Mead:  “Everybody knows that while an internal flight might (as BAA says) only take 50 or 55 minutes from take off to landing, check in times and security controls, taxi-ing, baggage reclaim and travel to and from the airport at each end of the journey typically means a ‘door to door’ journey time of nearer four to five hours1.  Contrast this with the fact that high speed rail links have more than proved competitive with air journeys of anything up to 1000km in France2, Germany, Holland and Belgium all of which have seen a shift away from environmentally damaging short haul planes to rail as a result. Applying current technologies would mean Edinburgh or Glasgow could be reached by train in as little as two and a half hours and Manchester in one and a half.”

“Meanwhile,” he continued, “environmental watchdogs like the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution have already made clear that using planes for such short journeys as cited by BAA is totally unsustainable in environmental terms since the greatest emissions from aircraft arise during take-off and landing.  If the government is serious about finding a truly sustainable long term solution, a properly integrated transport system for the UK must be developed.”

BAA is also disingenuous in the extreme in talking about the potential effect on what it styles ‘the less well off’ says the campaign group, pointing to recent figures from Friends of the Earth which show that if the aviation industry didn’t receive such massive benefits from VAT exemption on parts, planes and fuel, those on lower incomes (£10,000 pa) would be £112 per year better off.  Since the ‘better off’ account for 83 per cent of those who currently travel from Stansted3 and who are likely to continue to do so, talk about ‘pricing people off planes’ is a red herring which BAA is using to try to frighten people who don’t at present realise how much they are being charged even if they don’t fly.

“The bottom line is quite simply that BAA is terrified its profits might be dented if realistic air travel pricing, more high speed rail and better passenger choice reduced its customer base,” concluded Norman Mead.



[1]  BAA Stansted gives details of UK passenger surface origins as follows: Greater London 32%, Southeast 36%, East Anglia 16% (12 months end Mar 2003). Source: ‘Basic Facts About London Stansted Airport’ issued by Stansted Airport Press Office

[2]  Paris to Marseille by TGV (high speed train) is 783km and takes under three hours, standard price is 80 Euros (c£56).  Source SNCF website, 29 August 2003

[3]   Passenger profile for Stansted – AB 40%, C1 43%, C2 10%, DE 7% (12 months end Mar 2003).  Source: ‘Basic Facts About London Stansted Airport’ issued by Stansted Airport Press Office

Campaigning to ensure Stansted Airport's authorised operations stay below harmful limits