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Updated: Government urged to develop sustainable aviation fuel plants

The government is being urged to support the development of sustainable aviation (SAF) fuel plants.

They should be initiated in parts of the UK that are particularly reliant on aviation for domestic connectivity.

The advice on SAF plants is among recommendations put forward by the independent Union Connectivity Review established a year ago and headed by Sir Peter Hendy, chair of Network Rail.

The 98-page report’s primary recommendation is for the establishment of a multi-modal transport network (UKNET).

The review also calls for subsidy rules for domestic aviation to be revised “to allow support for routes between different regions of the UK – rather than just to and from London – and to allow multiple airlines to serve a single route”.

The uptake of SAF and zero emission technologies on domestic aviation should be driven by a combination of incentives, tax benefits and subsidies “to make the UK a world leader in developing these fuels and technologies”.

The review encourages the government to “fully consider” the need to vary Air Passenger Duty for routes where there are “no reasonable” road or rail alternatives.

There should also be state intervention in the assignment of runway slots at London airports “to provide more for domestic routes”.

Sir Peter also identifies existing transport projects that would support better connectivity and should be considered by the government for future investment.

The recommendations are informed by the government’s wider strategic ambitions around levelling up and reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Prime minister Boris Johnson described the review as an “inspiring vision for the future of transport”.

He added: “Determined to get to work right away, we will set up a strategic UK-wide transport network that can better serve the whole country with stronger sea, rail and road links – not only bringing us closer together but boosting jobs, prosperity and opportunity.”

Transport secretary Grant Shapps added: “Transport is key to binding the family of nations that is the United Kingdom closer together so that prosperity can be shared more evenly.

“It is not good enough that certain areas of the UK thrive while others fall behind. We must realise our full national potential and that means mobilising the resources and skills of all parts of this country.”

Sir Peter said: “My recommendations provide comprehensive, achievable and clear plans forward to better connect the whole of the United Kingdom, leading to more growth, jobs, housing and social cohesion.

“I welcome the enthusiasm shown by the prime minister and the government to my final report and I look forward to their formal response to my recommendations, which aim to spread opportunity and prosperity right across the United Kingdom.”

Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee said: “The pandemic has had a devastating impact on the UK’s connectivity and the Union Connectivity Review is a welcome step towards recovering and expanding some of our domestic connectivity.

“However, domestic routes are only one part of the post-pandemic connectivity recovery. The four UK nations do not only rely on connectivity to other parts of the UK to thrive but also internationally.

“This connectivity is expected to recover more slowly and the UK and devolved administrations need to set out ambitious proposals to ensure all parts of the UK have the connectivity they need.

“Without good air links, the UK government’s Global Britain ambitions and levelling up plans will be difficult, if not impossible, to deliver.”

American Express Global Business Travel’s senior vice president for the EMEA region, Jason Geall, said: “A slicker and much expanded multi-modal transport system is vital if we are to drive economic, environmental and social progress through travel.

“Among the measures set out, we welcome in particular those around sustainable aviation fuels and zero emission technologies. We look forward to the government’s consideration of these and providing our support to bring them forward.”

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