Government must get real on city's air links
WITH regards to the future of Plymouth airport, consider the following reasoning. Our so-called privatised railways received a massive £3.9billion of taxpayer support in the last financial year and because of a shortfall in revenue the First Great Western rail franchise, which operates the Plymouth to London Paddington rail route, is now under what is known as a "cap and collar" arrangement with the Dft.
Under the terms of the so-called "cap and collar" arrangement, the Department for Transport is obliged to cover the majority of any serious shortfall in revenues. The Government covers 80 per cent of any revenue shortfall that is greater than 6 per cent – the situation that First Great Western trains (FGW) now find themselves in.
My point is that without the "cap and collar" arrangement the current FGW rail franchise would be unprofitable for First Group to operate, which is why FGW have chosen to terminate the franchise early. Therefore it is not unreasonable in the circumstances to ask the Government to subsidise key air links to Plymouth as well, which would vastly improve Plymouth's poor connectivity at much cheaper cost than any rail improvements ever could, particularly west of Exeter.
Unfortunately, we are not on the 125mph Great Western main line like Bristol/Cardiff/Swansea etc, which will be electrified by 2017 for a new fleet of 140mph electric trains at a cost of some £5billion.
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No such improvements are planned for our rail links, so it's time for the Government to get real on this one and support Plymouth's wider economic need for key business air links – particularly to London.