High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Flybe (HSR 199)


1.1  Flybe is grateful to be invited to give evidence to the Committee on 6 September and trusts that the following summary assists the Committee in laying out the company's position on HS2.

1.2  Flybe is Europe's largest regional airline. Employing nearly 3,000 staff, we currently operate 69 aircraft on 194 routes from 38 UK and 37 European airports in 13 countries and carried more than 7 million passengers in calendar year 2010.

1.3  Of particular relevance to the Committee's considerations, Flybe is also the UK's Number One Domestic Airline operating more UK flights than any other airline, carrying more domestic passengers at London Gatwick than any other airline and operating over three times more domestic routes than any other airline (CAA statistics July 2010-June 2011).

1.4  Flybe is the largest scheduled airline, measured by air traffic movements, at Belfast City, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Exeter, Inverness, the Isle of Man, Jersey, Manchester, Manston, Norwich and Southampton airports (CAA statistics - June 2011). As such, we can legitimately claim to understand the domestic transport needs of the UK's regions better than any other airline.


2.1  Flybe supports increased expenditure on the UK's transport infrastructure, and in particular upon supporting the hard-pressed regional economies. However, Flybe does not regard HS2 as an effective use of scarce resources at a time of economic challenge. The UK has an overwhelmingly London-centric view on transport infrastructure improvements and HS2 is, to our mind, a further example of London being put before the rest of the country.

2.2  Flybe currently serves London Gatwick from four airports on the UK "mainland": Newquay, Newcastle, Aberdeen and Inverness and over water from Belfast, the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey, destinations untouched by HS2. As such, Flybe can confirm that HS2 phase 1 (even if it were ready for operation tomorrow) would have absolutely no impact upon our network. There would be no route cancellations, no decreased frequency and no cuts in capacity, facts that we are happy to explain in more detail on the 6th.


3.1  Aviation pays all its own infrastructure costs and doesn't take a penny (other than a small amount of Highlands and Islands Public Service Obligation) in government subsidy. With HS2 phase 1 costing tens of billions of pounds to construct, it will perhaps not surprise the Committee to learn that Flybe thinks this is a further example of a skewed playing field when it comes to expenditure on public transport.

3.2  Flybe also strongly refutes the perception that domestic aviation is somehow environmentally unsound. Having invested more than $2 billion on aircraft, Flybe prides itself on having one of the youngest fleet of aircraft in the world, with an average age of some four years. We fly the correct aircraft on the correct route, predominantly operating the Bombardier Q400, a 78 seat state-of-the-art turboprop aircraft. On regional routes like Newcastle to Gatwick, Southampton to Glasgow and Birmingham to Belfast, we do not, as other airlines have tried to in the past, attempt to fill a 150-seat jet for such journeys. The Q400 burns 40% less fuel than the jets we replaced them with and therefore produce significantly less CO2.

3.3  A number of studies support the environmental credentials of turboprop aircraft, including a 2007 study by the Rail Safety Standards Board which stated that "In comparison between turboprop airlines and high performance diesel trains there may be little difference between the environmental impacts in terms of CO2 emissions".

3.4  We look forward to expanding upon the above on the 6 September.

22 August 2011

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