Uncharted Territory

December 12, 2008

Planely Sensible at the FT

Filed under: Aviation, Flying, Global warming, Rail, Transport — Tim Joslin @ 7:45 pm

A comment piece by Philip Stephens in the FT caught my eye today.

Some wise words, not least about the bad timing of the Stansted protest.  I noted it was a distraction from the (under-reported) Poznan talks.  It’s clear too that – as implied in Stephens’ article – the rejection of consumerism is likely to find more support in boom times than during a recession.

Stephens’ main argument, though, is that, in general: “Self-flagellation does not sell” (unless, of course, the customer is Max Mosley trying to set an example to the F1 teams by reducing his costs), and that: “The case must be framed as an opportunity rather than a burden.”  Indeed.

I do disagree on one point, though.  Stephens writes:

“The young campaigners at Stansted had a point. There is something odd about the British government’s twin commitments to lower carbon emissions and to promoting a headlong expansion of London’s several airports.” [The grammar is not mine!].

If we just stop building runways we’ll just end up with even more overcrowded airports, and all but the most affluent will be forced to fly at inconvenient times.

No, what Plane Stupid should be doing is renaming themselves to something like Train Crazy and relocating from Stansted to King’s Cross (for some reason Gerald the Gorilla comes to mind as I write this).  Perhaps they could all dress in sardine costumes, invite the TV cameras and see how many of them could cram into a carriage on the 17:15 to Cambridge on a Friday evening (returning the space to the travelling public before the train leaves, of course).  Maybe highlighting the dire state of the rail service – and showing a little consideration while about it – would garner a little more support than screwing up people’s holidays.



  1. Nicely Put!

    This probably links in to the SFR groups stuff. At present airport owners get supernormal profits; leading them to lobby for more airports. Maybe we should be taxing that scarcity rent?

    Also how about the theoretical argument that congestion is not self-limiting although it does make us miserable. We only pay for part of our own impact on congestion.

    Comment by Stephen Stretton — December 13, 2008 @ 4:56 pm

  2. SFR refers to the Systemic Fiscal Reform agenda. It makes some sense.

    Trouble is I disagree strongly with the idea of a differential land value tax. Taxing planning gains is a disastrous policy, in large part responsible for the UK’s ongoing economic decline and political malaise (at least one blog entry on this is pending).

    Instead, we should simply allow the market to work: if airports are profitable (compared to other land uses) then, just as for any other good, incumbents or new entrants should simply be allowed to build more.

    The problem is the stuff coming out of the back of planes. This is what should be taxed, heavily, in order to reduce its quantity or even eliminate it entirely. This may, or may not, lead to fewer airports.

    Happy, indeed eager, to debate this further!

    Comment by Tim Joslin — January 3, 2009 @ 9:39 am

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