Friday, November 24, 2006

Gordon Brown's moneygrab air tax

The Telegraph reports that UK Chancellor Gordon Brown plans "green taxes" among which an tax hike on the existing 5 pound sterling tax on shorthaul flights and 40 pounds on longhaul. If Brown had real concern for the environment he would commit to putting all aviation tax above the cost of maintaining aviation infrastructure and security into improving high speed rail links within the UK and to Belgium and France via the Channel Tunnel. Instead the tax will surely pour into the gaping maw of the Treasury. This doesn't make it green - just greedy.

Taxes on long haul flights tax on the other hand lacks any alternative route to steer people to short of putting people on rowing boats - paying for facilities to tow and start up aircraft near runways rather than having engines idling on the tarmac should be where such taxes find a home, as well as punishing older aircraft harder than newer more economical ones.

There is a case to increase some taxes on flying here in Canada. I would impose higher taxes on any route which is less than 251km from Pearson. Why 251km? That is the distance from Kingston Airport to Pearson.

There are four each way services daily from Pearson to Kingston when those passengers should be making their way by rail. There is no service from Kingston to Montreal (270km) despite Montreal being a sizable hub - but why would there be when VIA Rail's service stops at Dorval adjacent to the airport. Worse still is Air Canada's nine 37 and 50 seat services each way to London, a mere 143km, when the rail line which passes Pearson serves London via Kitchener, albeit more slowly given the lower quality of the line. However, there is no VIA Rail stop as there is at Dorval - this should be remedied as a matter of urgency with a station at the proposed GO halt at Woodbine Racecourse. The 152km hop from Dorval to Ottawa should be similarly prodded.

Squeezing these services out of existence and making trains the no-brainer option should be a priority if aviation is not to be an undue environmental burden. Improving intraprovincial service to Windsor (313km) and Ottawa (364km) with higher speeds and possibly electrification would be the next step.
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