The cost of air travel could soon go down under plans set out by the Prime Minister to cut air passenger duty on domestic flights.
The plans aim to improve connectivity within the UK as Boris Johnson said he wants to “build back better” after the coronavirus pandemic, helping to bring “every corner of the UK closer together”.
Boosting travel connections
The PM will launch a consultation this spring on reforming the tax on passenger flights from UK airports, including a new lower domestic rate or exempting return flights.
The government will also commit £20 million to develop plans for upgraded rail, road, sea and air links, as well as exploring new requirements to offset emissions and decarbonise aviation.
The money will be spent on exploring the development of various projects, including:
- improved rail connectivity between the north coast of Wales and England
- upgrading the A75 between Gretna, Dumfries and Stranraer
- faster rail links from England to Scotland
- rail improvements in south-east Wales
Mr Johnson has also championed the idea of connecting Northern Ireland with the British mainland via a bridge, despite scepticism from the Northern Irish and Scottish governments.
Two routes, between Portpatrick and Larne and Campbeltown and the Antrim coast, have been proposed as part of the plans.
Building back better
The Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) has expressed concerns that the plans to cut domestic flight duty “flies in the face of the government’s climate commitments”.
General secretary Manuel Cortes urged the government to invest in “truly green public transport”, such as rail, which is the “most effective intercity connection taking people to the heart of our towns and cities”.
It comes as an interim report by Network Rail boss Sir Peter Hendy, who is conducting a review of union connectivity, was published assessing ways transport can better connect all parts of the UK.
The report set out how a UK Strategic Transport Network would deliver the ambition to upgrade direct transport links, reduce delays and stimulate growth across the four nations.
In the report, Sir Peter said he has asked two experts to lead a “discrete piece of work” to assess the feasibility of a bridge or tunnel between Northern Ireland and the British mainland.
Former HS2 Ltd chairman Douglas Oakervee and Gordon Masterton have been tasked with leading the technical review into such a link, with the PM in the past repeatedly suggesting the idea of a connecting bridge.
Mr Johnson said: “It’s now time to build back better in a way which brings every corner of the UK closer together.
“We will harness the incredible power of infrastructure to level up parts of our country that have too long been left off the transport map.
“This pioneering review by Sir Peter Hendy gives us the tools we need to deliver on our ambitions for a UK-wide transport network that encompasses sea, rail, and road – and I also want to cut passenger duty on domestic flights so we can support connectivity across the country.”
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Mr Johnson said the UK had suffered by not having a UK-wide transport strategy, and had instead lost out by leaving it to the EU under its TransEuropean Transport Network.
“The result is that the sinews of pan-UK transport have atrophied, with inadequate connections, needless bottlenecks and endless delays on the vital links between one part of the UK and another.
“It’s currently quicker to get a train from Cardiff to Paris than from Cardiff to Edinburgh. With some bypasses, better track and signalling, as Sir Peter believes, we could run services from Glasgow to London in about three hours, and carry more freight too.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added: “As we build back better from Covid, it is more important than ever that we level-up every corner of our great country.
“Quality transport infrastructure is key to achieving that, which is why we are committed to boosting connectivity and bringing communities across the UK even closer together.”