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Friday, February 18, 2005


Not in my back yard

Another day, another protest against airport expansion.

This time, it's local protesters in Essex who are making the headlines. They have won a High Court ruling giving them a say in expansion plans for Stansted Airport.

There is no doubt that airport expansion is disruptive, in terms of the land it takes, the temporary annoyance caused during construction work and the long-term effects of increased flights and the associated road traffic.

The fact that we have these endless protests merely illustrates that British transport policy is a mess. For example, had we developed a new high-speed rail network at the same time as France, Germany and Italy, we would not need so many internal flights. It is absurd that there is still any demand for flights between London and Manchester or Leeds.

But these protests also illustrate the hypocrisy of the British public. It is no use complaining about airport expansion if you also want to take regular flights on budget airlines. On Ryanair's
website today, you can book tickets from Stansted to 43 destinations (including such far-flung places as Blackpool) for just 74p.

I wonder how many of the Stansted protesters can honestly say that they or their families would never use Ryanair on principle?

I also wonder how many politicians would be prepared to tell the great British public that they can't have their cake and eat it?

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