Full Version: Conservative Party Long-Haul Transport Policy
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Thank you all for coming.  In advance I will say that I am here to address a specific subset of the Conservative Party's transport policy, not the entire thing.  Fundamentally I will address our long-haul travel strategy in some depth.

To begin with, I would note that in many respects this area of policy is often dealt with as "air travel".  We have decided to take the view that the attitude of looking at long-haul travel as being "air travel" and then dealing with rail separately is overly narrow and the resulting "funding silos" help nobody.  We disagree with this in no small part because, as the Eurostar project has shown, there are many trips which are "fungible" between methods of traveling based on the needs of a given individual in a given situation and on the options made available to them.

In line with this, it is our view that if we are going to meet our environmental objectives...that is, reducing carbon emissions in line with carbon neutrality by 2040...we are going to have to fundamentally transform travel.  HS2 is a step in that direction insofar as it brings travel times down for many key markets in Britain, but it regrettably leaves several major holes: The South of England is essentially ignored, while air-rail connectivity remains poor in many markets.

Likewise, we have taken note of the fact that many of the largest air markets could be well-served by better rail service, providing an opportunity to divert a not-insignificant share of the total travel market away from planes and onto trains.  In doing so we would both reduce our carbon footprint /and/ reduce stress on our airport infrastructure.

The easiest example of this is the London-Amsterdam market, an airline market which at present comprises nearly five million passengers per year, or over 13,000 passengers per day spread out across the various London airports.  That is approximately 80 A320s per day making that trip, something that in relative terms is a waste of airport capacity.  Unfortunately, at present the only option for taking a train, without a change, on that route is a twice-daily Eurostar out of St. Pancras, something which is a real deal-killer for many Britons from all walks of life.  Similar services are being envisoned to serve destinations such as Frankfurt, but again this will still fall under all of those caveats about thin service and inconvenient stations.

I would similarly point to markets in the south of France and along the coast down there.  Right now, with a properly-equipped train in the vein of the present Eurostars, those trips could be handled in comfort on either an all-day run or an overnight run at least as far as Barcelona and Milan.  The directly-covered markets make up a significant percentage of overall airline traffic originating from London and a non-trivial share of that from elsewhere, especially given the transfers in those latter markets across London and/or Paris.

Looking at this holistically, and looking at our present carbon pledges, we believe that through a coherent travel strategy we can divert 10% of airline trips originating in the London area to rail over the next decade.  In order to achieve this objective, we will pursue the following steps:

First, we are going to take back up the variety of proposals that have been made in the last decade or two for a high-speed rail link to Heathrow.  The Government resurrecting the Heathwick proposal draws a line under this: If we're going to run a high-speed train between Heathrow and Gatwick, there is no reason that we should not also re-examine the "Heathrow Hub" proposal and the "HS4Air" proposal: The former would interface with Heathwick nicely while the latter would expand it to have more than just "airport shuttle" utility and instead give Heathrow an advantage over many other airports as a gateway not only to the UK but to Europe as a whole.  It would also potentially permit HS2 to reach HS1 without having to engage in a messy rearrangement in London, potentially link HS2 to the Great Western Mainline, and actually provide meaningful high speed rail access to the South East.

We will also take up the Western Approach proposal, the Heathrow Southern Railway/Southern Access proposal, and the Windsor Link proposal and evaluate them for providing better conventional rail access to Heathrow...and, in conjunction with the previous proposals, improving access to HS2 and to Europe through the Heathrow station.  We are not prepared to commit to a specific option from among these at this time, and we reserve the right to take elements from one or more of them for a final alternative.

Ideally this will achieve part of the goal of the Third Runway: If we can, with the improved rail connectivity from HS2 and the aforementioned rail projects, eliminate most domestic flights out of Heathrow and draw down on connection-heavy markets such as Amsterdam and Paris, then with our plans we should be able to eliminate perhaps a hundred flights per day at Heathrow given that many of those flights are done with either A320 or Boeing 737 family planes.  That is out of Heathrow in particular; taking into account similar effects at Gatwick with Heathwick would add a bit more.  For the business community, I would point out that in general each flight to Amsterdam or Edinburgh that can be eliminated is a flight to somewhere else that can be added if demand fits.

It is also likely to be cheaper: HS4Air is estimated at £10bn or so, while the regional connectivity proposals are a bare fraction of that, meaning that even with an overrun we'd still be ahead of the Third Runway's £18.6bn.  Heathwick is somewhat less expensive than HS4Air, as is the Heathrow Hub proposal.  As I said, we intend to weigh these proposals and their benefits...though to the residents of the region opposed to the rail projects I would suggest that this is rather less disruptive than the Third Runway.

Moving on from Heathrow, we're committed to several other major initiatives to reform long-haul travel:

In conjunction with improved airport access, we intend to form a commission, with the airports in the London area, to coordinate service to leisure-heavy destinations and reduce the number of places served by virtually every London airport.  Regulating and consolidating services will permit larger aircraft to be used...I would note that per the statistics I have, there are significant fuel savings in the range of 20-30% per seat to be had when using larger members of both the new Boeing 737 family and the A320 family.

We also plan to introduce legislation to ban the sale of tickets at less than the cost of taxes and fees on all flights, and to restrict the sale of tickets at below the cost of operating a flight on most short-haul flights.  The former are simply marketing gimmicks by ULCCs that are driving unnecessary travel while the latter drive unnecessary, polluting travel in markets that could better be diverted to cleaner modes of travel.

Further, we will introduce separate legislation to alter the structure of Air Passenger Duty to take into account the availability and practicality of non-air travel options.  The structure of this reform will not specify specific markets but rather set conditions, such as travel time by rail, road, or where relevant, ferry and the availability of direct or reasonably direct services.  This will allow air travel markets to be moved between categories as developments permit or dictate.  At this time, we anticipate adopting three tiers of APD.

Finally, as a relative footnote in all of this, we intend to pursue the establishment of fast ferry services where feasible, both across the English Channel to the Continent and across the Irish Sea and the integration of those services with rail services.  Due to a long period of neglect across the board, ferry services are simply not feasible for many travelers...the SailRail packages out of Cairnryan involve a long and reportedly unpleasant bus ride while the last time I tried to book a ticket out of Liverpool I couldn't do it without a car, leading to an odyssey out to the fine town of Holyhead.  These services are in dire need of improvement, and we will do so.  It will likely involve some cooperation with the Nations in several cases, but providing alternatives to flying is something that we must do.

Thank you very much for your time and attention.
This is an interesting speech which breaks the tradition of the party in power loving Heathrow and the party in Opposition hating it. This speech isn't going to move the dial too much because it is awfully dry but plane enthusiasts like it which is... something? The promise of investment is nice, people like it, but Labour are offering more. The last promise on investment in the South East for ferry crossings and the North West for Irish crossings could have been better played up because that's genuinely policy that could move the dial, the rest of this is (whilst interesting), a complete nothing burger when it comes to moving the dial around.