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Airport: Bring on battle with high-speed trains.

Byline: PAUL BRADLEY

Birmingham Airport has dismissed Government claims that a high-speed railway would put a stop to domestic flights and said it would continue to operate short-haul flights in direct competition with the rail network.

The hub said the aviation industry was likely to compete against the Government's proposed London to Scotland route designed to kill off short-haul f lights.

Airport spokesman John Morris said that the public would see a "transformation in service and quality" comparable to the cross-channel ferries when the Channel Tunnel was developed. He claimed that when it came to high-speed trips to Scotland and Europe, air travel was better for the environment than trains.

The remarks were made after Transport Secretary Lord Adonis said: "For reasons of carbon reduction and wider environmental benefits, it is manifestly in the public interest that we systematically replace short-haul aviation with high-speed rail. But we would have to have, of course, the high-speed network before we can do it."

He revealed that the high-speed line from London to the West Midlands would be built by 2020 with the pounds 7 billion funding possibly coming from a publicprivate partnership.

High Speed Two, a company set up by the Government and led by Sir David Rowlands, is due to publish a report on the route, including a framework to extend the line to Scotland, by the end of the year.

Birmingham International Airport executives remain confident that short-haucarriers would not be threatened by Lord Adonis's plans.

Mr Morris said: "I think what you will see is companies like Flybe changing the way they operate, adapting and improving their service.

"Travelling from Birmingham to London is best done by train - that is why we have no flights there from Birmingham. But getting to Glasgow and Edinburgh is better done by air.

"You just have to look at the lower carbon emissions for the journeys, the quicker journey times, and a noise footprint that is significantly less than the 300-mile one left by trains."

Mr Morris said BIA was looking beyond the next election when it came to the implementation of the route.

If the Conservatives come to power and stay true to their promise not to build a third runway at Heathrow, the high-speerail link could make Birmingham International Airport an even more powerful gateway to the world as Londoners opt to fly out from the second city instead of the capital.

Even if Heathrow gets an extra runway, Birmingham International Airport hopes that an international "travel hub" on the joint NEC and airport site could bring in millions of pounds to the regional economy.

Mike Rutter, chief commercial officer at Flybe, which operates 67 flights from Birmingham to Glasgow and Edinburgh per week, said: "Lord Adonis' comments are unfortunately another example of a London-based politician who simply doesn't understand the crucial role domestic aviation plays in the UK regions.

"Millions of passengers from Inverness to Newquay and Birmingham to Belfast depend on reliable air services."
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Aug 6, 2009
Words:495
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