The Guardian is reporting that Britain’s transport secretary, Lord Andrew Adonis, is hitting back at airline industry criticism of his high-speed rail plan. He accused the Ryanair boss, Michael O'Leary, of having his "head in the sand" over the competitive threat posed by 250mph trains.
Adonis rejected claims by O'Leary that investing billions in high-speed rail in the UK to replace short-haul flights would be "insane." O'Leary told the Guardian there would still be heavy demand to travel by air between the UK and Europe because the Channel tunnel is the only rail link between Britain and the continent.
Other airlines, including British Airways, seemed to share O'Leary's concerns. The industry backlash came after Adonis said the government hoped to progressively replace short-haul flights with a 250mph train network in the UK.
Responding to the criticism today, the transport secretary said high-speed rail already controlled 80 percent of the London to Paris and Brussels market, with a new Dutch high-speed line set to add Amsterdam to the list of rail destinations from the capital.
"Those who think that the airlines will continue to monopolize short-haul European destinations from London have got their heads in the sand," he said. "It is nonsense to suggest that high-speed rail will be competitive with airlines only for internal British journeys. High-speed rail already has the lion's share of the London to Paris and Brussels market. Once the Dutch high-speed line from Brussels to Amsterdam is open later this year, rail will be competitive from London to Amsterdam and Rotterdam; and it won't be long before the same is true of Cologne and Frankfurt."