According to Guardian journalist Goeorge Monbiot, The government's South West Regional Development Agency (SWRDA) has spent £19m in recent years on extending the airport terminals at Bristol and Bournemouth, aircraft parking at Exeter and airport works at Plymouth and Newquay. The subsidies to Bristol Airport were made in 2004 and included £15,000 to pay for an economic assessment and greenhouse gas emissions assessment for a proposed direct scheduled service to New York and £1.5 million towards extending the terminal.
The bulk of the £19 million of SWRDA subsidies were directed at Newquay, so greatly undermining the attractiveness and potential of the existing rail link to the town. Likewise the £4+ million subsidy to Plymouth airport will give airlines a further competitive edge over rail. Now it is possible to fly from Bristol to Newquay in 45 mins for just £29 one-way which, even allowing for airport travel and check-in, is quicker and cheaper than rail (over 4 hrs, £65 off-peak return). Those low air fares owe a lot to public subsidy.
Air travel accounts for less than 1% of total UK business turnover but accounts for 13% of greenhouse gas emissions. You might think curbing the growth in air travel, particularly of domestic flights that can realistically be undertaken by rail or coach, should be the very top of the government's environmental agenda. Instead we find them pouring millions of our money into subsidies to support air travel at the expense of rail travel.
SWRDA is headed by career quangocrats Jane Henderson (CEO) and Juliet Williams (chair) - nice to see women taking a leading role in screwing the environment for our grandchildren. The board inevitably includes local serial quangocrat and Merchant Venturer John Savage, who, we are told, is "passionately concerned about the failure of the British educational system to produce opportunities for a large swathe of underprivileged young people..." which he "strives to redress" through, amongst other things, spending public funds subsidising the business and holiday trips of his privileged chums in the west country's elite.