/ Travel & Leisure

Consumers should not have to prop up the travel industry

We don’t want to see the travel industry suffer further as a result of the pandemic, but it cannot be on consumers to prop up airlines and travel firms. Here’s why.

Why have Business Secretary Alok Sharma and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps remained silent over the scandal of travel firms denying refunds for coronavirus holiday and flight cancellations?

For nearly seven weeks since international travel was shut down, airlines and some tour operators have been hoarding billions of pounds in customer payments for holidays that are no longer happening – effectively interest free loans to get them through the crisis.

Most British holidaymakers are protected by legislation that entitles them to a refund within seven days for a flight or 14 days for a package holiday if their trip is cancelled.

Yet we found 20 of the biggest airlines and tour operators breaking the law by delaying or denying refunds. Many are doing it brazenly and in plain sight. And they’re getting away with it, with barely a peep of protest from the government or the regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority.

No-one wants to see these businesses collapse. Millions of us rely on them to help us get away for what might be the most enjoyable and relaxing week or two of our year.

But that does not mean it’s acceptable for millions of families and other travellers – who may be facing serious financial problems of their own due to coronavirus – to fund the travel industry through this crisis.

Your stories

We’ve heard from people out of pocket by more than £10,000 on a holiday of a lifetime and others who really need their £150 flight refund so they can pay this month’s bills. Many are understandably concerned about whether they will ever see their money again.

 
 

We’ve seen holiday companies wrongly telling customers that consumer protections have changed and they are no longer entitled to a refund. Some are forcefully pushing vouchers and credit notes on customers – even though these may prove worthless if the provider goes bust.

The major airlines have hardly covered themselves in glory. They are withholding money from their passengers, and also from holiday companies that need the cash to refund their customers.

British Airways passengers have been infuriated by the airline taking refunds offline and asking them to ring a phone number that plays a recorded message before hanging up on them. 

Ryanair customers have been bombarded with vouchers – even after making it crystal clear they are only interested in a refund. The airline has been through several iterations of its refund policy during the pandemic.

All of them have had one thing in common: no-one actually seems to get a refund.

People are also finding they are out of luck when they turn to their insurer or card provider in a last-ditch effort to get their money back. Insurers say the holiday firm or airline is responsible.

Some banks are rejecting debit or credit card dispute claims, leaving people wondering if anyone will help them.

In short, it is an unholy mess. And it’s not going to get better without urgent government intervention.

Support the industry, protect consumers

We’ve produced a 10-point plan for supporting the industry and protecting consumers – so that airlines and holiday firms can weather this storm without neglecting their legal obligations to customers.

We have shared it with the government and MPs on Parliament’s Transport Committee, who will be questioning industry representatives this morning.

The airlines hold the key to getting the system moving again and we believe ministers and the aviation regulator must start getting tough with carriers that are breaking the law or playing fast and loose with the rules.

Our proposals also include a temporary extension of the 14-day statutory refund period for package holidays to a maximum of a month, because we know operators face a challenge to process so many refunds with fewer staff available – but a cash refund must still be an option for those who want it.

The government must guarantee that the refund credit notes being offered instead of cash refunds are insolvency protected. But even with that reassurance, many will still want a refund and we have concerns that some firms are simply not in a position to honour their obligation to pay up.

That’s why we’re also calling for the creation of a temporary Government Travel Guarantee Fund, which would support holiday companies ordinarily in good health that are struggling to fulfil their legal responsibilities due to coronavirus cancellations.

The actions in our plan, taken together, are necessary to secure a return to a thriving UK travel sector as coronavirus restrictions are gradually lifted.

But unless action is taken now, there is a real risk of permanent damage to consumer trust and confidence in the travel industry. 

Comments
L KERR says:
7 May 2020

Ryanair make their refund flight form impossible to fill in. One of the questions on the form requesting a reference number will not accept any input at all. I could only get a response with a dedicated number for future reference by noting from their form every bit of information they want and sending it as a separate email and making it clear I did not want a voucher. They replied and said I was in the queue as they had such a backlog to get through. At least having done this I have a record of attempting to get my money back if in the future I have to open a dispute with them or the card providers.

robert george ficken says:
7 May 2020

My wife and I booked a trip to Norway to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary leaving May 2020 through our local travel agent Go Travel Chislehurst. We have asked for a refund of approx. £5000. They say that the Norwegian company Hurtigruten have accepted the claim but it will take time.
I pointed out to the travel agent that my contract was with them and they had to refund my money within fourteen days. They declined stating lack of funds. I have dealt with them on several occasions and feel sympathic to their case but I can ill afford to lose the money.
I paid with a credit card and could claim by that route. However I believe the UK Government/the EU should take action to make the companies/airlines who took the money months in advance to refund asap.

John says:
7 May 2020

I have been using Easyjet for some considerable time and up until recently had an extremely good opinion of them. I book numerous flights a year with them, but have had 8 cancelled already and they have done absolutely everything to avoid paying refunds.
At the outset they only offered switching to some alternative flight (which you may not need), then they offered a voucher (but not insured), then only just recently they have actually made it simple to make an application for a refund (but only say they will try to get back to you within 28 days and not to contact them again within 90 days).
I realise Easyjet has to manage its cashflow, but this is an appalling way to treat customers.

Manuela says:
8 May 2020

Hi John how did you manage to contact them as had an email from eajet offering me to book another flight or to get a refund. However I replied for a refund but email did bounced back to me. Could you give ne the easyjet email as got no where in finding and no phone number to speak to them. Many thanks

Tony Wheeler says:
7 May 2020

I am in Manila , my flight back to London May5th was cancelled , I need to return to London ASAP , the airline KLM have only offered vouchers and flights not starting again to July.
I understand that its KLM responsibility to get me back to London
The company I booked with are not answering emails
So can I book a earlier date and fly back with another airline and claim the cost
The total ticket cost was around £2000 can I expect to get half of that back or just accept what they offer. Other airlines are now asking around $3000 one way for business class same as my KLM ticket.

David says:
7 May 2020

ATOL, ABTA, Whats it all worth if you cant get a refund on your holiday due to COVID19.
If your flight is cancelled by the airline due to COVID19 then a refund is due. Earlier Which have stated that if you have paid a deposit and are being asked for the balance , then you should pay it. This means you should be refunded the whole amount.
I hope this is true, as its a lot of money for a lot of people to gamble.
As an afterthought, it makes a total mockery of consumers rights. I do hope Which manage to succeed in clearing this matter up with the airlines. As every month goes by more and more booked holidays are being cancelled.
Good luck Which, your all we have fighting our corner.

Stephen says:
7 May 2020

We were due to fly Virgin Atlantic on April 29. We are classified as ‘extremely vulnerable’ so requested cancellation and refunds in March using online refund request form (before it was removed from website), as we were not going to be able to fly. On April 15 we received email confirmation our fights were cancelled, so applied for refund using WhatsApp: initial response was that we should rebook but eventually received confirmation of refund request. The sting was that refunds apparently are taking up to 90 days (they didn’t wait 90 days to take our money for the booking). As ever part of the fare is taxes and security, so they are withholding our money including the airport/government’s money: my understanding is that portion of the fare is not paid over until the flight departs. All in all disappointing and I don’t see why passengers money is being withheld without any apparent consequence, legal or otherwise.

Paul Appleby says:
13 May 2020

We are in the same position. Virgin flights cancelled, and it took 7 days to get Virgin to even acknowledge our request for a refund. We are now in the queue for processing, but Virgin can’t give any indication of how long we will have to wait (not even “90 days”). This can’t be due to how long it takes to process a refund – if they can take our money in a matter of moments when we book on-line, why can’t they refund it just as quickly via a simple on-line request? They are obviously dragging their feet to minimise cash outflow. My concern is that they might go bust before we get our refund. Seems we can’t claim back via credit card as Virgin haven’t formally refused a refund. Surely their should be some enforcable time limit? EU regulations stipulate 7 days to make a full refund – Virgin have blown through that already but there doesn’t seem to be any easy way to hold them to any kind of time limit.

Neil Garland says:
7 May 2020

I am awaiting refunds from the booking and subsequent cancelling of two trrips to Sir Lanka.
First one booked through Gotogate.com and secondly Last minute.com.
Both are claiming it is the airline operator’s responsibility. Either way because I booked tickets for 3 people I am £2000 out of pocket. Now the credit card need paying, and they are offering no help whatsoever.
Its an absolute disgrace and at least fraudulent, as the airlines have not fulfilled their side of the contract.
What would happen if I did not pay any thing toward the credit card bill, I guess I’d be hauled in front of the beak, and have to face the consequences.

David Peacock says:
7 May 2020

I have a hotel reservation in Dorset on hold from the end of March with the £50 deposit I had paid with the original booking waiting to re-book when lock down is eased. I have a cottage holiday due to start this Saturday paid in full but re-booked for later in the year but another one booked for July should be paid for in full by now but the date has moved to three weeks before we a due to go. If we don’t go we will have to pay 90% of the cost of the holiday, the normal fee for cancellation, no mention of a delay to go later if allowed by the government so I possibly have almost the full cost of two holidays to pay with no chance of a furlough.

Alex J says:
7 May 2020

I managed to get a partial refund from Eurostar. I paid an extra fare to change my day of travelling before the coronavirus crisis, they refused to refund it on basis it was an exchange fee and was not refundable even though they had cancelled the train I paid this fee for!!!

Justin F says:
7 May 2020

I’ve got an all-inc package booking to Mexico, with First Choice (TUI), in August. I got an email from them on Sunday (3rd May) saying that they’ll be requiring the balance, which is about £5k, and that I shouldnt worry because Tui are ATOL protected.

Three things:

1. I’m a LTD company worker and I lost my contract at the beginning of the lockdown
2. I have the money but I’d prefer that that £5k stays in my account rather than a business’s account and maybe i’ll see it again this year or maybe I wont and i’ll have some vouchers that may or may not have be ATOL protected
3. One of my group is in the “high-risk” group for Corona (on immunosuppressants) which, even when the virus dies down I’m not sure i’ll feel comfortable in a place like mexico

At this stage, I think my only option is to cancel the booking and lose the deposit. I dont believe that Mexico is going to have a better handle on the virus than the UK (subjective, i know) and I feel forced to make a decision. I dont want vouchers and I’m uncertain about the safety of the high-risk person in my group.

Iain says:
7 May 2020

We booked a stay at Crieff Hydro. They took full payment on the same day as informing us that the hotel would not be open for our stay and are only offering vouchers. The booking was for a family lodge and cost £1,300. It was for my 60th birthday. We want our money back as we will never spend that amount on such a large booking again. What are our options?

Shaz says:
7 May 2020

Purchased flight in February with Wizz Air for 1st-6th April to Bulgaria. Lockdown commenced, here and in Bulgaria. Kept on trying to contact Wizz Air about it. Then the flight went ahead, presumably to repatriate Bulgarians/UK residents on return journey. Wizz basically saying, tough our flight went ahead not our problem if you weren’t on the plane. Also spent £32 on the upfront discount club for one year in February, which I am of course unable to make use of.

Shaz – Wizz Air need to understand that even if the flight went ahead on 1 April you were not even allowed to travel to the airport because of the government’s prohibition of all non-essential travel. Send a formal written request for a refund in accordance with the EU regulations.

Isla says:
8 May 2020

But EU Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 covers three (and only three) specific scenarios:

– Denied boarding. “… passengers have a confirmed reservation on the flight concerned and, except in the case of cancellation referred to in Article 5, present themselves for check-in, …”

– Cancellation. The OP states the flight operated normally.

– Delay. Not applicable in this instance.

Also worth mentioning as an aside (although not relevant in this case) an exception to denied boarding rights includes “… where there are reasonable grounds to deny [the passenger] boarding, such as reasons of health … “.

So if you present at the airport with obvious signs of Covid-19 or another infectious disease, the airline is perfectly within their rights to deny you boarding.

Agreed, Isla – but presenting at the airport even in perfect health means breaking the law!

I would argue that for so long as the emergency Coronavirus legislation is in place departures for non-essential travel are de facto cancelled [even if the operator does not explicitly admit it] because they imply and require a breach of the law. The same identified flight could still be operating for certain essential travel purposes.

Really, this is a frustrated contract case but in the interests of a quick and easy resolution rather than fighting such a case it would be better for the operator to concede a refund immediately, ex gratia and non-precedential if that makes them feel more comfortable about it.

Shaz says:
8 May 2020

“…presenting at the airport means breaking the law!”
Exactly, both here and Bulgaria. It’s disgraceful of Wizz Air to just keep passengers’ money and ignore their requests for refunds. Basically: stuff you we’ve got yer money.

Valerie Kitchen says:
8 May 2020

Of course you should get your money back if you don’t get what you paid for but expecting the government to continually step in is unrealistic. The government has no money and all this spending will have to be paid for. This crisis is showing how many companies including holiday companies and airlines are badly run.

Mrs R.M. Clarke says:
8 May 2020

My friend and I have three holidays booked on coach trips in the UK so far two of these have been cancelled. The company Ellen Smith Tours have refused to refund our money £1416 but have given us credit notes. I have asked for a refund but they say we can use part of the money to pay for the third trip in August, as we are both in the “at risk” group we don’t know if we will be able to go. Any help would be good. Rhona.

Our cruise with Princess Cruises was cancelled on the day we were to embark. We had travelled to Fort Lauderdale where we were to sail from. The cruise was to start on March 8th. To date, we have received nothing. This was a very expensive holiday to celebrate a big birthday, and we just cannot afford to lose that kind of money. We have phoned, emailed and sent letters where they have to sign to acknowledge receipt. We are getting nowhere and are very concerned. We don’t know what we can do.!

James Young says:
10 May 2020

I’m in pretty much the same situation as Justin F, in so far as I’ve booked a holiday but with Jet2, for the end of July, for my wife , myself, my daughter and 2 grandchildren. We’ve also received an email reminder that the outstanding balance will shortly fall due, also, I have been identified as being in a high risk group and advised to shield for 12 weeks until the end of July.

Our obvious concern is whether or not to proceed with the holiday under these circumstances and whether it would be wise to pay the outstanding balance or cancel, thereby losing our deposit but not having to worry about having the full cost refunded. What’s really annoying though, is that although Jet 2 have no trouble whatsoever in contacting me for the balance, it’s proven almost impossible to speak to them regarding my options and concerns. I’ve sent them several emails but they haven’t replied to any.

Whilst appreciating the pressures they must be under in these uncharted times, it surely can’t be asking too much that they respond to customer concerns in a timely manner, an outlay of £3000+ is not exactly chicken feed and would be better staying in my bank than theirs.

Come on Jet2, please let’s have some customer service, it will likely prove highly beneficial in the long run!

Martin Frearson says:
11 May 2020

We have a cruise holiday booked through a UK agent, ROL, for early July, sailing to and from the UK, and paid up in full on Feb 20, i.e.a month before the lockdown was announced. Are cruises considered to be ‘package holidays’? It is ATOL and ABTA protected, but that doesn’t seem to offer any protection now. On the agent’s website they are offering 125% vouchers against future cruises to those whose cruises have already been cancelled. No sign of refunds being offered, of course. But are we entitled to them for cruise holidays anyway?

ATOL is a government scheme, operated by the Civil Aviation Authority, that protects the flights portion of the holiday and also guarantees the EU rights under the package travel regulations. ABTA is a trade representation organisation for travel agents and it lays down certain obligations for its members [primarily for the purpose of providing confidence to holidaymakers]. Its current guidance to its members advises them to offer vouchers and rescheduling facilities instead of refunds. Which? has criticised this as denying travellers their rights under the EU regulations. A holiday booked through one operator [tour organiser] consisting of any two of flights, accommodation or services is a package holiday and refunds are mandatory.

See the following Which? guidance –
https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/regulation/package-travel-regulations

GRAHAM COURT says:
11 May 2020

We were due to fly with Delta this month to the USA they cancelled the flight I contacted their office in the USA got a refund within a week.Well done Delta puts the other air lines to shame.

Carolyn Woodhams says:
11 May 2020

We have booked a ‘holiday of a lifetime’ to Japan with Wendy Wu travel. We were due to fly on 8th May – but holiday was cancelled on 24th March. I requested a full refund on 25th March but they have totally ignored me and on 28th April – following chase emails – they sent me a credit note for the full amount. I again explained I could not travel and wanted a full refund and again they have totally ignored me – but just said my monies are protected fully by ABTA and ATOL until January 2021.
I was patient at first as clearly this was a crises and they had people already overseas – but now more than 7 weeks since the cancellation I find their attitude really poor as well as their not meeting their legal requirements to issues this refund. I am retired and it is a very large amount of money for me, I feel that they are not going to do anything to refund me unless I take them to court. Do you have any advice or any similar stories about WENDY WU travel

Carolyn – I have been following the travel implications of the coronavirus emergency on various Which? Conversation topics quite closely but I cannot recollect any previous references here to Wendy Wu travel.

Two points to note:
(1) While ABTA has issued guidance to its members suggesting credit notes and rescheduling facilities be offered for cancelled package holidays, it has been criticised by Which? for purporting to deny refund rights [although its chairman has recently stated that ABTA upholds the right to a refund and will take action against any of its members who do not honour those rights].
(2) The CAA [operator of the ATOL protection scheme] would not confirm to Which? that vouchers and ‘refund credit notes’ were financially protected, so Which?’s advice is that, until the CAA confirms that these facilities are fully protected by ATOL, consumers should reject them.

I would suggest you submit a formal written claim for a refund as provided under the ABTA and ATOL schemes that they have quoted.

Should the taxpayer subsidise airlines, or make them loans that may not be repaid? Not in my view. A number have extremely wealthy people “involved” and could use their own money to make such loans, if they have confidence in the airlines’ futures.

If the airlines fail the planes will still be there, owned by lessors in many cases not the airlines. Staff will still be around, as will infrastructure. So when the need for air travel revives presumably new companies will use these assets. The downside is it will not just be airlines that initially fail, but subcontractors and suppliers will be caught up in any dissolution as well as passengers owed refunds. Maybe these will be the people needing assistance?

I wonder what the new future of air travel will be? Flights may well be significantly reduced, so an opportunity to retire older, noisier, less fuel-efficient aircraft. Ticket prices may well be significantly increased to cover lower capacity. Long distance holidays may substantially reduce; maybe trains to the Continent will become the popular way to get to the sun.

It has been a blessing to see the improvement in air pollution and quiet skies. I wonder what will happen in the future? Will everything just return to what it was? Will the benefits arising inadvertently from this most unfortunate epidemic just be squandered?

Because we have a complex and interdependent economy, if a large section of it fails, the downstream effects, as you say, can be unpleasant for many. That’s why governments do bail out big businesses.

But I agree it would be a shame if the benefits to the atmosphere were to be squandered.

I am not in favour of baling out travel companies. In many cases their precarious position is entirely due to their own corporate decisions to pay excessive dividends, expand beyond their prudent level, and cut prices and quality of service in a mad rush to capture market share.

If they go under, and if people still want to travel, then either new operators will arise or well-run solvent operators will take over their routes and rationalise operations. Monarch lost its operating licence, Thomas Cook collapsed into a state of bankruptcy, and Flybe has ceased operations after failing to attract financial support, but the world hasn’t stopped turning [although I accept that it is jolly unpleasant for anyone caught in the slipstream].

By the way, I am not sure whether to use the term “bale out” [to optimise continued flotation] or “bail out” [to release an alleged offender] in the present context.

“Bale out” suggests abandoning a failed aircraft, hopefully with a parachute; worth doing in that it saves the staff except that an essential asset is lost. “Bail out” suggests attempting to stop a boat sinking from an influx of water; perhaps better not to do that as an excess of liquidity is just what is needed by the cruise industry.

Malcolm – I think the expression “bale/bail out” is so badly misused that you and I have completely different understandings of the meaning for each spelling. I didn’t look up the definitions but have always used “bale out” in the context of scooping out water to stop a boat from going under, and “bail out” for letting someone out of custody on bail. Perhaps Ian could adjudicate.

Flybe seemed a good example of what to avoid, which our government did. Had it had a viable commercial future I would have expected Virgin, as its owner, would have provided the loan instead of the UK taxpayer being asked to take the risk.

Em says:
12 May 2020

Both “bail” and “bale” are variant spellings of the same verb, meaning to scoop water out.

Sp. “bail” is correct for securing the release of a prisoner. Or Az/Nz to hold someone up against their will.

Sp. “bailout” is correct for an act of giving financial assistance.

Thinking back to when I played cricket at school I think I managed to escape having a ball thrown at me by something like a bail out.

The word Bail is interesting, as it has more than a chequered history. In the Felonious sense, it’s from Middle English/Old French:

origin Middle English: from Old French, literally ‘custody, jurisdiction’, from bailler ‘take charge of’, from Latin bajulare ‘bear a burden’.

From OED:

bail /beɪl/ ♫ (British also bale)
verb
[with object] scoop water out of (a ship or boat):
the first priority is to bail out the boat with buckets.
• scoop (water) out of a ship or boat: I started to use my hands to bail out the water.

bail someone/thing out rescue someone or something from a difficulty: the state will not bail out loss-making enterprises.
origin early 17th century: from obsolete bail ‘bucket’, from French baille, based on Latin bajulus ‘carrier’.

In short, either Bale or Bail in the UK is acceptable. However, in the antipodes, it’s more interesting. There, if one bails someone (usually bail someone up) it means confront (someone) with the intention of robbing them: they bailed up Mr Dyason and demanded his money.

It can also mean detain (someone) in conversation, especially against their will: students will bail up Canberrans on Friday for donations for the Royal Blind Society.

Finally, one can bail a cow as in Secure (a cow) during milking.
origin Middle English (denoting the outer wall of a castle): from Old French baile ‘palisade, enclosure’, baillier ‘enclose’, perhaps from Latin baculum ‘rod, stick’.

Interestingly, in Law the district or jurisdiction of a bailie or bailiff is a bailiwick: the warden had the right to arrest all poachers found within his bailiwick.
origin late Middle English: from bailie + wick.
Wick relates to a town, hamlet or village.

The recent pandemic has highlighted a number of issues that need addressing, and the rapid growth of air travel and its contribution to pollution scores high on the list.

Since 1992 global passenger kilometres have increased by about 5.2 percent per year and EU greenhouse gas emissions from aviation increased by a whopping 87percent between 1990 and 2006.

Due to low or non existent taxes on aviation fuel, air travel enjoys a competitive advantages over other forms of transport due to lower fares and the time is now right to encourage the development of more fuel efficient aircraft and ensure airlines pay for the pollution they cause.

I think the days of cheap overseas holidays are coming to an end as more travel agents close their doors and the smaller airline companies go into liquidation. To help reduce greenhouse gasses, the focus needs to be on other cleaner competitive travel options that could be made available such as the development of more intercontinental high speed trains and electric vehicles.

Concord was probably one of the most expensive and beautiful planes to fly the skies, but one of the noisiest and biggest polluters and finally met its demise through
a neglectful incident on the runway in France, but it was the ultimate in commercial travel.

Air travel has no doubt encouraged the spread of COVID-19 and big changes are essential if we are serious about reducing the amount of pollution it emits both in the air and at all of it’s airport operations around the globe.

I agree Beryl.

It is partly because of what you say in your last paragraph that I have little sympathy for the current plight of the travel industry.

To put things in perspective, it has been estimated that the emissions from 120 years of the HS2 railway will be no greater than three months’ emissions from traffic on the UK’s motorways.

The environmental damage caused by air travel is well understood and now we might see it curtailed thanks to the current pandemic. The great problem is that it may cost the jobs of many people and hopefully they will manage to find other employment as soon as possible.

The money spent on HS2 could, in my view, be better spent on tackling the problems created by commuting. Before we had cars and rail services, people lived near their place of work and they did not have the benefit of modern communication services. We need to think of the environment if our country is going to be fit to be passed on to our children.

John,
This mornings news that the U.K. economy is down 2% will probably delay HS2 even further. Increasing tax on air fuel would probably increase air fare and reduce the number of flights in the air and the extra revenue would contribute towards the HS2 project.

A good time to invest in the U.K. holiday and hospitality industry?

Wavechange and I have always promoted, and agreed on, the necessity to reduce commuting by moving jobs and homes closer, and distributing them around the UK. I also agree that excess HS2 money would be better invested in facilitating this change (and electrifying more existing lines).

Excess money? We do need more rail infrastructure but I maintain it does not have to carry the substantial extra cost (and environmental damage) required by an extra-high speed railway. I believe the passenger case for HS2 is yesterday’s solution, particularly in a small island nation. We have seen over the last few weeks how many do not need a physical presence with others to do their jobs; homeworking has been successful and aids such as Team allow meetings to take place over the internet. So why must we travel in such numbers? Nor do I think we should promote long distance commuting.

So just how many passengers will really need to, want to, or afford to travel to save a relatively small amount of journey time? Predictions were 85 million a year. To recover the capital cost of the project over 20 years, without considering interest charges, would cost each passenger journey over £60. Add on operating and running costs plus depreciation…… How many will fork out that kind of money?

All is not lost. We do need extra rail capacity to deal with freight and get lorries off the motorways. Despite this being ignored in the plans for HS2 I predict that this will be the main use for the new railway.

Back to Beryl’s point. We have a great deal to attract us in the UK for our holidays; these rely not just on sun and turning brown, although global warming may well be an added attraction at our resorts. We should capitalise on that. At the same time, my experience of holidays has been high restaurant and hotel prices, but perhaps UK package holidays might change that. Having said that I had a holiday at a very comfortable family-run hotel in Torquay with DB&B. Dinner was 4 courses with coffee and superb food in great variety; breakfast was excellent with little need for more than a snack at lunchtime. Cost? £70 a day.

I am not trying to take an opportunity here to promote HS2, merely to point out how clean rail travel is compared with other modes and I agree that we should reduce the need for commuting. Apart from being a massive waste of time and money it is extremely inefficient in the use of resources. Commuting by car is the major problem in terms of emissions. If the car traffic could be reduced and more use made of greener public transport it would be better, but still not as good as doing away with the necessity for it through a policy of managed dispersal under which the provision of homes and work were properly coordinated.

Studies currently suggest that if more track is going to have to be built, which it clearly is, then the cost differential between high speed track and the current standards for ordinary track is not significant. The main cost, in fact, is the electrification processes.

But it goes much further. The lack of a high speed rail infrastructure perpetuates the North/South divide in the UK. After all, those living in the Home counties have quick and easy access to high speed rail for their skiing trips and Cannes; those in the North are not so fortunate.

The other advantage, which Beryl identified, is speed. The airline industry only thrives because it offers point to point travelling that’s quick. But airports are dreadful places, and the slow shuffling through security, the heaving masses and unpleasant waiting conditions mean more and more are moving to trains. Once trans can offer high speed connections between the North and the South, it will go a long way towards eliminating the North / South divide.

For me, as a Northerner, there’s no contest. For far too long the South has been enjoying the lion’s share of what’s available. Time for a much needed change.

I’m with Malcolm here. Nowadays, all my holidays are in the UK. When I was working and going abroad for conferences and research meetings I would usually stay afterwards, paying for the additional cost of accommodation. I cannot remember ever flying purely for leisure purposes and I certainly would not want to be on a plane full of holidaymakers. Last year I spent three weeks on the Rivers Thames and Wey with three friends, one from nearby and two who live down south. We ate out and produced some splendid meals on board. Only one day did it rain and my experience of UK weather when on holiday is generally very good.