Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Tony's between and Rock and a Hard Place

Politics. It can be so difficult. Take Tony Blair's position on climate change. He has government scientists telling him of impending catastrophe, he has all the criticisms from the environmental lobbies, he has all the pressure from business and he has his own political survival to think about.

So, when MPs (who have virtually no responsibility in Government these days) put it to him that air travel needs to be taxed out of the skies, he is in a dilemma. Air travel has become a sacred cow in the UK. It supplies jobs, it supplies opportunities to get away from the weather, it supplies business contacts, it is one of the life bloods of society. So to suggest taxing it to save the planet is a difficult one for Tony.

His answer, naturally, is to deal the technological hand and suggest cleaner airplanes, etc. Which is good. But the truth is, air travel will continue to be an important contributor to pollution whatever the Government may consider doing. If you don't believe me, look at road travel. Every time the tax on petrol is increased there are those who say "we are doing something to cut back personal travel". But have you noticed how the roads don't get any less congested?

Virgin Trains has a better solution. They have a very clever ad out these days showing how much easier it is to travel from London to Manchester by train than to fly. One Virgin high speed train carries 447 passengers. That's a lot of people moving.

So the key is not necessarily taxation but investment in the right sort of transportation to get people where they want to be. You cannot take a train from London to the Azores but you can to Edinburgh!


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