Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Ken Livingstone talking nonsense again

So Ken has swanned over using his increased council tax take for a trip to India - and he has the gall to go on about climate change.
His latest "great idea", reported on BBC London TV news is to ban airlines flying between London and Paris, and London and Brussels because "you'd be mad" to fly now that the high speed rail link has been opened. Like any budding petty dictator, Livingstone wants to ban the flights.
Of course for starters he hasn't the power to do this, so he's talking out of his arse about "wanting to do it".
However, secondly he is wrong. You're not necessarily mad to fly instead of catching the train. For starters, some people live or work closer to the airports than the railway stations. Heathrow may be a lot more convenient for some west of London than finding your way by rail to St. Pancras. London City Airport is more convenient for some as well. More importantly, one very good reason both BA and Air France fly London-Paris is that the airlines pick up passengers to feed onto long haul flights. You can fly quite cheaply from London-Paris-Africa or Asia for example. However, like many politicians (it isn't just the left) Ken automatically knows what best about something he really knows little about.
Thirdly, what would be the effect of "banning flights"? The price of rail travel would increase, dramatically. It would be a monopoly, then the drones and complaints about the privately run railway ripping people off would also come from Ken. Airlines add competitive pressure, something that Ken has shown no interest in with his London transport policy.
Finally, his own idea fails to reflect that the market itself is already delivering part of what he says. BMI stopped flying London-Paris two years ago because of the competition from Eurostar rail services, Easyjet and Ryanair have also abandoned such routes after having a go at them. Air France has reduced its schedule because it gets higher value from selling those precious Heathrow landing rights to its airline partners like Delta and Continental, than keeping them for this route.
Flights between London and Paris/Brussels have been in decline for a few years, this is likely to accelerate - for good economically rational reasons. People are responding to their best interests, and airlines are responding to this - none need Ken to push them around.

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