EU to ban short-haul flights in favour of rail travel

Short-haul flights in Europe could be banned altogether and replaced by high-speed rail, if EU plans get the go-ahead.

The proposal has been revealed as part of long-term plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from transport by 60% over the next 40 years.

The European Union believes that in order to ease Heathrow's congestion problems, new rail networks need to be built in order to cut domestic and European flights. This would also help suppress the demand for new runways.

The EU transport commissioner Siim Kallas said: 'At Heathrow there are no new runways, but we desperately need to increase capacity and you can do this if you reduce short-haul flight connections.'

Kallas has announced a series of green transport goals, which include ambitions to phase out the use of petrol cars in city centres by 2050.

In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, the commissioner said that the UK should look at the example of Spain, where high-speed rail has scuppered demand on a previously popular flight corridor.

'In Madrid and Barcelona, 50% of the market has moved to high-speed rail. It is comfortable for everybody. Airlines can put emphasis on long-haul flights, which is better for their business.'

Speaking about his controversial plans to ban petrol and deisel fuelled cars from city centres, Kallas said EU countries needed to reduce the "mass need" for short journeys in petrol and diesel cars. 'It is a desirable goal to phase out conventional cars,' he said. However, Kallas added that mass adoption of electronic cars also posed problems because major city roads would continue to be clogged by traffic.

Speaking after a meeting with officials at Transport for London, Kallas said: 'The congestion charge is a step that many cities [in Europe] will follow.' Kallas's 2050 targets include connecting all hub airports to high-speed rail lines and connecting major ports to rail networks in order to reduce dependency on road freight.

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