Planes losing out to trains in UK

AIR traffic in the UK is not growing anywhere near as fast as the rest of Europe, according to a new report today.But aviation experts say it is not concern over the environment making people think twice about flying - it's less money in their pockets to spend on holidays.

AIR traffic in the UK is not growing anywhere near as fast as the rest of Europe, according to a new report today.

But aviation experts say it is not concern over the environment making people think twice about flying - it's less money in their pockets to spend on holidays.

Better rail services though are having an impact on how people travel, taking the train rather than the plane for trips around Britain.

Despite the slow down, the air industry is still determined to press ahead with expansion - more cheap flights and plans to expand airports, particularly Stansted and Heathrow.


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Currently around 1,200 jet planes fly over Suffolk every day - some 600 of them over the Felixstowe area, the Clapham junction of the county's skies - causing growing frustration over noise and concern over pollution.

The new report by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said: “Passenger traffic at UK airports has grown at an average annual rate of about six per cent since the mid 1970s, more than twice the rate of economic growth in the UK.

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“However, over the last few years the growth rate, although still positive, has fallen to approximately two pc per annum.

“UK air passenger traffic growth in 2006 was slower than in 14 other developed aviation markets in the EU, many of which saw economic growth similar to the UK.”

The CAA's research shows no frills cheap flights are still growing by around ten per cent, and business travel has risen.

“Growth in domestic air travel, which accounts for one fifth of all trips, seems to have been mainly affected by competition from other transport modes, particularly due to improvements in long distance rail services and changes in airport security that have increased total journey times for air travel,” said the report.

It was not thought air passenger duty was having an impact because the slow down started before this was imposed.

CAA expert Dr Harry Bush said: “The CAA's analysis shows the impact on passenger air travel of recent slowing of consumer expenditure, but also indicates a significant impact from the recovery of rail travel and from the increasing internationalisation of the UK economy, with the consequent growth in air travel to visit family members or friends in other countries.

“Looking to the longer term, demographic changes and ownership of homes abroad are also likely to buttress air travel demand, although relatively small changes in frequency of leisure travel between mid and higher levels of income suggest demand growth is constrained to some extent by factors other than income, such as availability of leisure time.”

Should we fly less to protect the environment? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail EveningStarLetters@eveningstar.co.uk

FASTFACTS: Who flies most …

Half of the UK population do not fly at all in any year - those who do take more than two return trips on average.

Higher income households take more flights, single people and childless couples fly more than families, and those who own property abroad fly often.

Households with total earnings over £115,000 per year take around 60 per cent more trips per year than those earning less than £40,000.

Regional airports have continued to grow at a faster rate than London airports, and in 2006 handled 42 per cent of passengers at UK airports.

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