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From The Socialist newspaper, 21 April 2010

Planes, trains and automobiles

FOUR DAYS after planes were grounded in the UK leaving 150,000 British travellers stranded abroad, the government finally got around to deploying Royal Navy ships to help bring stranded Britons home.

As usual it was a case of too little, too late for many, who at considerable cost and much time, arranged their own rail and ferry crossings from mainland Europe.

Alarmingly, the commercial airlines, worried about a dip in their profits, seem determined to challenge the Meterological Office's advice over the resumption of flights.

However, a coastguard helicopter in Shetland flew through the ash cloud to rescue a seriously ill woman. Afterwards engineers had to strip down the engine to remove large quantities of ash.

Airlines worldwide are estimated to have lost 130 million ($200m) a day during the shutdown. A BBC article says a fall of between 1% and 2% for European economies is not being ruled out.

However, hotels, ferries and railways have experienced exceptional revenues by a huge increase in demand from stranded airline passengers. Many delayed passengers complain of being ripped-off by taxi and travel companies charging ridiculously expensive fares.

The British Airline Pilots' Association (Balpa) said the financial impact "could not be more serious... The government needs to step in and show the same approach it took to keeping banks afloat."

If that means nationalising the major UK airline carriers as part of an integrated, air, rail, road and sea planned transport system, then socialists would wholeheartedly agree. Otherwise, the pleas of union hostile, profit hungry giant corporations like BA should be ignored.

Internationally, air freight has been badly affected - in particular, flowers and vegetables grown in countries like Kenya and flown thousands of miles to fill supermarket shelves in northern European cities.

Apart from the enormous use of resources involved and its huge carbon footprint in burning aviation fuel, much of this produce is now being thrown away as the refrigerated warehouses in Kenya become full. This in a country and on a continent suffering from food scarcity.

According to a report in Kenya's Daily Nation newspaper, the Kenyan economy is losing $3.8 million a day and thousands of agricultural workers have been laid off.

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In The Socialist 21 April 2010:

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