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City airport spotlight on rail network rival.

A NEW UK domestic airline wants to set up in Liverpool,flying to 41 UK and Irish destinations in direct competition with the rail industry.

Air-Train proposes to use 32 200-seat jets with 16 permanently based here, creating almost 600 jobs at Liverpool John Lennon airport.

But airport chiefs say they do not have the capacity to handle the ambitious scheme and Air-Trainfounder Neil Bellion says he may now have to take his proposal to Manchester.

Airline consultant Mr Bellion, 39,from Liverpool, said: ``Richard Branson recently floated an airline in Australia which was 10-times oversubscribed, and easyJet's flotation was also oversubscribed.'' Mr Bellion, whose last project was setting up an airline in Kurdistan, said Liverpool has offered to help him set up at Finningley in Yorkshire, a small airport which parent company Peel bought earlier this year.

He said: ``I've been talking with Liverpool for two years and I'm still looking at JLA, but they say they don't have the capacity.

``They need to raise their ambitions in terms of their infrastructure. There's bags of land available. Liverpool would be like the Crewe station of the air industry.''

Tickets would range from as little as pounds 9 one way, with the most expensive return fare priced at pounds 128.

Liverpool JLA corporate affairs manager Robin Tudor said: ``We have to be realistic as to what we can accommodate within the guidelines as agreed with the local authority.''

CAPTION(S):

INTEREST: Liverpool John Lennon airport; BOSS: Commercial manager Robin Tudor
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Dec 19, 2003
Words:250
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