Air passenger duty on domestic flights could be slashed under new plans

Air passenger duty on domestic flights could be slashed under plans to boost connectivity in the UK – as Boris Johnson’s ambitious proposals for a tunnel between Scotland and Northern Ireland move a step closer.

The Prime Minister is set to launch a consultation this spring on reforming the tax – paid on all passenger flights from UK airports.

Possible cuts include slashing rates for UK internal flights or scrapping the tax for return legs.

The duty, which raises around £3.7billion a year for the economy, is set at £84 for a standard longhaul economy seat and is as low as £13 for shorter flights leaving from the UK.

Mr Johnson says the shake-up, which comes amid calls by the aviation industry for more Covid support, is part of plans for the UK to ‘build back better’ after the coronavirus crisis.

The Prime Minister also hopes it will bring ‘every corner of the UK closer together’.

As part of his new proposals, he is set to announce a new £20million infrastructure fund to help better connect the four UK countries.

Part of the cash injection will be used as early-stage funding for the £10billion the  ‘Boris Burrow’ – an ambitious undersea tunnel connecting Larne in Northern Ireland to Stranraer in Scotland.

It will also be used to develop plans for upgraded rail, road, sea and air links between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

The Prime Minister is set to launch a consultation this spring on reforming the tax - on all passenger flights from UK airports

The Prime Minister is set to launch a consultation this spring on reforming the tax - on all passenger flights from UK airports

The Prime Minister is set to launch a consultation this spring on reforming the tax – on all passenger flights from UK airports

He is set to announce a new £20million infrastructure fund. The money will be on top of the £10billion sidelined for the 'Boris Burrow' - an ambitious undersea tunnel connecting Larne in Northern Ireland to Stranraer in Scotland (pictured: A map showing the proposed link)

He is set to announce a new £20million infrastructure fund. The money will be on top of the £10billion sidelined for the 'Boris Burrow' - an ambitious undersea tunnel connecting Larne in Northern Ireland to Stranraer in Scotland (pictured: A map showing the proposed link)

He is set to announce a new £20million infrastructure fund. The money will be on top of the £10billion sidelined for the ‘Boris Burrow’ – an ambitious undersea tunnel connecting Larne in Northern Ireland to Stranraer in Scotland (pictured: A map showing the proposed link)

Air passenger duty on domestic flights could be slashed under plans to boost connectivity in the UK

Air passenger duty on domestic flights could be slashed under plans to boost connectivity in the UK

Air passenger duty on domestic flights could be slashed under plans to boost connectivity in the UK

‘Boris’ Burrow’: The £10billion tunnel to connect Northern Ireland to the mainland

‘Boris’ Burrow’ is the nickname for a 25-mile, £10billion, undersea tunnel that would link Stranraer in Scotland and Larne in Northern Ireland. 

Studies are currently being undertaken by the chairman of Network Rail, Peter Hendy, to find out if the 25-mile tunnel would be possible.

A direct tunnel from Stranraer to Larne would have to cross Beaufort’s Dyke – where 1.5million tonnes of munitions were dumped after the Second World War

Mr Hendy has already met the Prime Minster to discuss his findings and his report is expected to be released within a matter of weeks.

But The Times last week reported that officials at Number 10 decided the 25-mile tunnel idea may be impractical.

Instead, officials have suggested three tunnels, starting from Stranraer, Liverpool and Heysham in Lancashire, could meet at a roundabout at the Isle of Man, before a tunnel stretched on to Larne.

The roundabout could be dubbed Douglas Junction – after the island’s capital, according to reports.

A link between Scotland and Northern Ireland was first proposed by Boris Johnson during the Tory leadership race in 2018 in the form of a bridge. 

‘What we need to do is build a bridge between our islands,’ he declared, during an interview that was highly critical of Theresa May’s leadership.

‘Why don’t we? Why don’t we? There is so much more we can do, and what grieves me about the current approach to Brexit is that we are just in danger of not believing in ourselves, not believing in Britain.’

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The money will be spent on exploring the development of projects including improved rail connectivity between the north coast of Wales and England; upgrading the A75 between Gretna, Dumfries and Stranraer; faster rail links from England to Scotland and rail improvements in south-east Wales. 

It will also be used to explore new requirements to offset emissions and decarbonise aviation. 

But the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) said that cutting domestic flight duty ‘flies in the face of the Government’s climate commitments’.

General secretary Manuel Cortes urged the Government to invest in ‘truly green public transport’, such as rail, which is the ‘most effective intercity connection taking people to the heart of our towns and cities’.

It comes as an interim report by Sir Peter Hendy, the boss of Network Rail – who is conducting a review of union connectivity, was published assessing ways transport can better connect all parts of the UK.

The report set out how a UK Strategic Transport Network would deliver the ambition – upgrading direct transport links, reducing delays and stimulating growth across the four nations.

This includes ‘Boris’ Burrow’, a 25-mile tunnel under the Irish Sea that would link Stranraer in Scotland and Larne in Northern Ireland

A direct tunnel from Stranraer to Larne would have to cross Beaufort’s Dyke – where 1.5million tonnes of munitions were dumped after the Second World War.

As an alternative, officials have suggested three tunnels, starting from Stranraer, Liverpool and Heysham in Lancashire, could meet at a roundabout at the Isle of Man, before a tunnel stretched on to Larne.

A bridge is also being considered. In the report, Sir Peter said he has asked two experts to lead a ‘discrete piece of work’ to assess the feasibility of a bridge or tunnel between Northern Ireland and the British mainland.

The Prime Minister has mooted the idea of a bridge several times, and former HS2 Ltd chairman Douglas Oakervee and Gordon Masterton have been tasked with leading the technical review into such a link.

Mr Johnson said: ‘It’s now time to build back better in a way which brings every corner of the UK closer together.

‘We will harness the incredible power of infrastructure to level up parts of our country that have too long been left off the transport map.

‘This pioneering review by Sir Peter Hendy gives us the tools we need to deliver on our ambitions for a UK-wide transport network that encompasses sea, rail, and road – and I also want to cut passenger duty on domestic flights so we can support connectivity across the country.’

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps added: ‘As we build back better from Covid, it is more important than ever that we level-up every corner of our great country.

‘Quality transport infrastructure is key to achieving that, which is why we are committed to boosting connectivity and bringing communities across the UK even closer together.’

Sir Peter said: ‘Devolution has been good for transport but it has also led to a lack of attention to connectivity between the four nations, due to competing priorities and complex funding.

‘A UK Strategic Transport Network could resolve this, with its core objective centred around levelling up across the whole of the UK.’

Greece gives green light for tourists from May 14: Holiday hotspot will reopen to international visitors who are vaccinated or can show proof of a negative Covid test, minister says 

Greece is planning to reopen to British holidaymakers from mid-May – even if they have not received the vaccine.

Yesterday Harry Theocharis, Greek tourism minister, said the country would be open to international tourists who are vaccinated, have antibodies or can show proof of a negative Covid test.

Greece will reopen its borders on May 14 – three days before the earliest date at which Britons can travel abroad, according to Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown.

Addressing the ITB Berlin trade show, Mr Theocharis said: ‘Our only ambition is to ensure Greece is open to allow anybody who wishes to visit to be able to do so.’

Greece is planning to reopen to British holidaymakers from mid-May – even if they have not received the vaccine (stock image)

Greece is planning to reopen to British holidaymakers from mid-May – even if they have not received the vaccine (stock image)

Greece is planning to reopen to British holidaymakers from mid-May – even if they have not received the vaccine (stock image)

He added that all holidaymakers will be subject to random testing.

It is thought tourists will be able to enter restriction-free after their first jab and children will need to arrive with a negative test. But the final details are still being sorted.

Greece joins countries such as Cyprus which have already announced they will welcome UK tourists once restrictions are lifted.

All tourists will be subject to random testing, the Greek government said.

Tourism accounts for around a fifth of the Greek economy and employs one in five workers.

Mr Theocharis said the authorities would prioritise the vaccination of people working in the hospitality industry once the most vulnerable had received their jab, and were mandating the frequent testing of employees.

He stressed how the country had been able to successfully ‘open tourism safely’ in 2020 when it welcomed six million visitors before a virus resurgance forced it to shut again.

British holidaymakers will be able to travel overseas from May 17 at the earliest, Mr Johnson announced last month, with the government’s reconvened Global Travel Taskforce due to present its recommendations to the Prime Minister on April 12.

Greece will reopen its borders on May 14 – three days before the earliest date at which Britons can travel abroad, according to Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown (stock image)

Greece will reopen its borders on May 14 – three days before the earliest date at which Britons can travel abroad, according to Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown (stock image)

Greece will reopen its borders on May 14 – three days before the earliest date at which Britons can travel abroad, according to Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown (stock image)

Mr Theocharis said demand in the UK for holidays in Greece is ‘already picking up because there’s a lot more optimism with the way the vaccination programme is progressing.’

Simpson Travel, which specialises in Mediterranean holidays, said that about 90 per cent of villas on some Greek islands had already sold out for the summer.

In 2019, more than 3.5 million British holidaymakers travelled to Greece, the second highest number of international visitors after Germany.

Mr Theocharis said the country would also extend its summer season further into autumn this year.

 

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