Monday, 6 October 2008

Who's spinning?

The tories are continuing to row with British Airways, perhaps happy to show that, unlike Labour, they are not in the pocket of big business. Today Theresa Villiers is accusing BA chief executive Willie Walsh of spinning the figures over the impact of a high speed rail link. Walsh had said the tories were all over the place on aviation policy. Villiers says:
“We are not all over the place on aviation policy,” she said. “We have made a firm decision on the third runway at Heathrow. It is not a decision Willie Walsh wants but it is decisive.
Fair enough, but it looks like it's the tories' figures that don't add up:
"Willie Walsh is challenging our figures on the basis that only Leeds and Manchester flights are included.”

Ms Villiers said that, based on the Government’s own figures, there were 63,200 flights last year between Heathrow and the six destinations – 13,200 to Leeds and Manchester and 50,000 to Paris, Brussels, Amsterdam and Rotterdam.

“If roughly 63,200 flights were substituted by high-speed rail, that would free up slots at Heathrow equivalent to 28pc of the total 222,000 capacity the Government say would be generated by a third runway,” Ms Villiers said.

Are the tories really saying that a high(er) speed rail link between London and Leeds and Manchester would mean no-one flying between Heathrow and those four destinations? And even if they did, according to the tories that would be only 28% of the capacity of a third runway.

One grumble about the frequent absence of the word "that" from news stories. Sub editors don't like the word and don't understand how it provides clarity and how its absence causes confusion. In this piece:
She denied scrapping the runway would infuriate big business and believes she can convince firms of the greater merits of high-speed rail.
Five words into the sentence, I'm wondering which runway Theresa Villiers is denying having scrapped. But no, what the Telegraph means is that she denied that scrapping the runway would infuriate big business....

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