Page last updated at 12:27 GMT, Tuesday, 24 June 2008 13:27 UK

Union urges 'trains not planes'

East Midlands Train
The report says more than a third of flights from Heathrow are short-haul

Ministers are being urged to switch planned investment at Heathrow Airport to new high speed rail lines.

The government is planning a third runway at the west London airport.

But a study for the Rail Maritime and Transport (RMT) union said thousands of jobs would be created and pollution would fall if rail was prioritised.

The Department of Transport said the success of Heathrow as an international hub is fundamental to the success of the UK economy.

The report for the RMT says over a third of flights from Heathrow are short-haul, more than 20 per cent go to destinations already served by a viable rail alternative, and one in five more are to places where rail is a potential alternative.

Unilateral action to constrain growth at Heathrow means passengers simply choose another airport for their onward flight
Spokeswoman, Department of Transport

It also claims where high-speed rail links have been opened there has been a significant switch from air to rail, and warns the UK is in danger of being left behind as countries like Spain benefit from rail investment.

The RMT leader Bob Crow said: "This report shows that high-speed rail can provide a win-win solution for the economy and the environment."

But the Department for Transport said "some people will need to fly because they are using Heathrow as a connection to another country".

She added: "Unilateral action to constrain growth at Heathrow means passengers simply choose another airport for their onward flight. This doesn't save carbon, it just costs jobs."

The government was investing heavily in the rail network, with 10bn earmarked over the next five years, she said.




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