Chris's blog

Subsidised flights just can't compete with the train


Welsh plane

A year ago the devolved Welsh Assembly government decided that the subsidy flying receives by our turning a blind eye to the environmental damage of aviation (and leaving the fuel untaxed) just wasn't giving enough of an advantage to the beleagured aviation industry.

Instead they simply decided to hand over wads of cash to support a ridiculous air link from Cardiff to RAF Anglesey. Even though the link was designed to improve business travel the subsidy per passenger is double the average single fare - a whopping £84 for every passenger.

BA passenger numbers collapse

BA check in

It hasn't been a good start to the year for British Airways, once the self-appointed "World's Favourite Airline". Surging growth on the domestic railways and a 21 per cent increase on Eurostar following the opening of the high speed route has eroded BA's passenger figures. Now even their pilots are trying to strike.

But the real disaster was of course the 'opening' of T5 with the naive belief that passengers might still want to travel with BA even if one in 34 of the bags that were reluctantly submitted to their care were lost in the bowels of the new terminal. Oddly enough people are deserting the British flagship in droves: BA's figures fell 7.9% in April 2008 compared with a year previously. What's more the number of passengers per plane has been falling - by 5.1 % over the year - undermining the industry's pretend 'efficiency' figures, which rely on cramming more and more people into aircraft to reduce their per passenger emissions.

Could this be why they've taken to plastering London with surreal adverts which show famous landmarks dominated by aircraft apparatus  - including Big Ben transformed into a control tower. Is BA so crazy that they haven't spotted that this is just like waving a red flag in front of the hordes of residents who'd happily trade BA's bankruptcy for a decent night's sleep without the red-eye from Dallas soaring overhead...

Climate campaigners hang 'NO 3rd RUNWAY' banner before PMQs

Parliament roof 3

27th February 2008 - Campaigners opposed to Heathrow expansion have scaled the roof of the Houses of Parliament and hung protest banners from the building before Prime Minister's Questions is due to begin.

The three men and two women from climate action group, Plane Stupid, opened an outside door before walking along the roof and dropping two banners. The non-violent direct action comes on the day a government consultation into Heathrow expansion ends. The protesters are making paper aeroplanes out of confidential Whitehall documents that reveal the process is fixed, and gliding the planes into the MPs' car park below.

Climate change is just a fad, says Ruth

Consultation paragraph 322

One week to go until the most sophisticated and cruel practical joke ever to be played on the two million plus residents of West London and Berkshire ends. The more I read the absurd consultation document the more I am convinced that they either can’t possibly be serious, or that they truly believe – like Mikey O’Leary - that climate change is just the current florescent angst of today’s youth.

A classic example of the DfT’s blinkered lunacy is the above paragraph from page 44 of the consultation which explains with glee what a third runway would bring. Read that last sentence again. Apparently the "unconstrained demand forecast" by 2030 would in fact be restricted, by unexplained "environmental constraints". What are these constraints that dare upset the analysts' demand forecasts?

What price a butterfly?

Butterfly Dance

The existence of nature has always vexed developers and transport planners. Desmoulin's whorl snail famously held up the Newbury by-pass, and the massive extra costs of moving protected species has often thrown a monkey wrench into the digger (to mix metaphors). But now a solution for developers may be on the horizon.

Defra have created a process whereby they can assign a figure on nature's existence. From now on all you need do to build an airport is show that you'll get more 'value' from the airport than that provided by the creatures you destroy to build it.

Good news on domestic aviation?

Here at Plane Stupid Towers we're usually full of gloomy, cynical predictions, jaded as we are by the outrageous behaviour of the aviation industry. So it's a real treat to relay some good news for once.

Passengers numbers on domestic UK flights have fallen for virtually the first time since domestic aviation began. Okay - so they've only fallen 0.8%, and to put this in perspective numbers of passengers on internal flights mushroomed over 60% in the last ten years alone.

Ex-aviation minister slams industry

Ex-aviation minister Gillian Merron, now at the Cabinet Office, spent last week chatting with her European peers in Lisbon.

In an unexpected development she waded into the climate change debate, denouncing an industry that "is responsible for about 1 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions each year - that's between 2 and 4% of global energy."

Clearly something must be done! Thanks, Gillian, for recognising that despite only emitting a fraction globally, this industry must still be tackled. It's what Plane Stupid has been saying all along!

[Edit: turns out the industry in question is IT...]

(F)air trade


First it's Hilary Benn telling us to buy Kenyan flowers; now it's Claire Melamed of ActionAid telling us to buy air-freighted food.

Air-freighted fresh vegetables may have a lower carbon footprint than similar vegetables grown in Dutch greenhouses or in Spanish Polytunnelia, because energy use in European agriculture is virtually untaxed. But does this mean that we should buy food being carted all over the place? And is 'development' a sustainable arguement for doing so?