Transport Industries Beg for Government Cash as Everything is Cancelled

By Gary Cutlack on at

It is an unprecedented day for news across the transport world today, as the major airlines reveal plans to cancel the vast majority of flights for the month or two and ask for billions of pounds in financial support; and the rail companies are asking for similar and equally special measures to be put in place.

The percentages are unbelievable. Ryanair has said it's reducing flight capacity by 80 per cent during April and May, and is not ruling out cancelling literally everything at some point. Easyjet's share price was down by 30 per cent at one point this morning as it announced a plan to cut flights and prepare for the "...grounding of the majority of the Easyjet fleet" in the near future, while British Airways owner IAG says it's cutting flight capacity by 75 per cent over April and May.

These cuts have been enabled by the European Commission, which suspended the controversial slot use rules that forced airlines to run near-empty planes in order to maintain their prime positions at the continent's airports. So that's maybe one thing to put on the "pro" list.

But the trains are bollocksed too. Rail operator First Group has seen its value halve today as people stay at home to politely panic in isolation as the stock markets rupture, while Transport for London says year-on-year passenger numbers for the first week of March are down 19 per cent on the Underground and 10 per cent on the buses – costing it around £500m in lost fare revenue.

Some official support from the government would appear to be on the cards, perhaps, with transport secretary Grant Shapps appearing on breakfast TV today to address travel restrictions, where he said that contractual obligations obliging rail franchises to operate strict numbers of services could be loosened, also saying of possible financial support: "We want to make sure that companies and organisations who are in a good state, not those who were going to fail anyway, are able to continue. We'll be looking at all these measures, and I'll be discussing them with the chancellor and the prime minister." [BBC, Sky News]