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Short haul flights should be “progressively replaced” by rail, says transport minister

The development of high-speed rail services would allow both domestic and short-haul European air travel to be replaced by trains, transport minister Lord Adonis has announced.

In a marked change of emphasis from previous government statements, Adonis – a keen advocate for rail travel – told the Guardian: “I would like to see short-haul aviation – not just domestic aviation, but short-haul aviation – progressively replaced by rail, including high-speed rail.” Given the UK’s commitment to a greenhouse gas reduction of 80% of 1990 levels by 2050, Adonis said rail should take priority over air travel, reports the newspaper.

But the Government’s support for new runways at both Heathrow and Stansted airports has not shifted. Airport expansion would still be necessary to accommodate increased demand for long-haul journeys, said the minister. The Conservatives have promised to scrap the expansion plans at both London airports if elected, arguing that high speed rail offers a viable alternative.

AEF supports the development of environmentally sustainable alternatives to air travel and believes that rail has an important part to play. When powered by renewable electricity, trains can offer an attractive, low-carbon option for people travelling within the UK and Europe and we’re delighted that the government has acknowledged this.

We very much hope that this marks the start of a new vision for travel and communication in the UK, with employment created in low-carbon transport, videoconferencing and telepresence, and a revived British tourism sector. A review of the government’s outdated policy on aviation expansion is, however, an essential part of this picture.