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Ability to jet off from Norwich airport is a vital alternative to road or train travel

PUBLISHED: 06:37 23 January 2020 | UPDATED: 06:37 23 January 2020

Flybe planes at Norwich International Airport - having the option to fly by plane across this country is a vital alternative, says David Clayton

Flybe planes at Norwich International Airport - having the option to fly by plane across this country is a vital alternative, says David Clayton

Archant

Domestic flights might not seem a big deal to most people in the UK but to a regular commuter like David Clayton, they are vital

I've decided which side of the debate about Flybe I'm on. This, and other domestic services are important in my view. Here's why, and I make no apologies for taking a very Norfolk view of this.

Say what you like about us being a mere 120 miles from that there London, we're still a bit cut off over here, especially if you want to go north or west.

I am a frequent user of the remarkable Norwich to Liverpool direct rail service. I say remarkable, because it's mostly a two-carriage diesel train on a very long-haul route. Generally, I'm hopping off at Manchester to work at Salford's Media City. On the odd, heroic occasion, I've gone the full distance through to Liverpool Lime Street and alighted in what feels like another time zone due to the interminable journey. The service is operated by EMR, previously East Midlands Trains, and it weaves its way across country.

Such is the tortuous route, as it criss-crosses the north-south rail routes, it goes into a couple of stations, Ely and Sheffield, to exit in reverse which, if you're sensitive about facing the direction of travel, is confusing. It hitches up a couple more coaches in Nottingham with, joy of joys, a refreshment trolley, or detaches them on the return journey.

The trick here is to be in the right coach for the onward trip to Norwich. Easy, you think, but it has done the about-turn in Sheffield so what was at the front is now at the back.

I've got it sussed now, but I've seen many a panicked passenger, given the announcement is sometimes inaudible.

I generally set aside a day to make this trip for an overnight stay, as you couldn't do it on a morning and manage a day's work.

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As a seasoned EMR traveller, I have a routine. An EDP, the crossword, a sandwich and drink, some emergency
Kit-Kats and a window seat if possible. I settle down for the long haul. Comfy though the seats are, a lengthy train journey saps the energy levels, especially returning late at night.

I've flown to Manchester on a few occasions too. The difference is astounding. No sooner have you taken off, you've been served a cup of coffee and a biscuit, you're starting the descent. On a clear day, the view is spectacular over the Pennines. There's a bit of a schlep through the airport to the trams, but all in all you marvel at how efficient and modern it all is and something like a five-hour trip has shrunk to barely an hour.

On occasional work trips to the south west, I've Flybe'd to Exeter and the thrill of not having to endure the vagaries of the M25 and the nose-to-tail shuffle around the M4 junction is joyous.

I'm not clever enough to evaluate all the pollution concerns and therefore bow to people who can, but the diesel train from Norwich to Liverpool chugs along for nearly six hours through the English countryside with similar scheduled trains an hour or so apart. It stops around 14 times and revs up to get going again. I've seen them at the Norwich and Liverpool ends chugging away even when stationary.

Whatever the Flybe plane
is doing, it is doing it for an hour or so before they switch it off until the next take-off. So, there we are, my simplistic analysis.

Here's the other thing, if I fly, I can be productive for longer at my desk until I need to start the journey. What might have to be a two-day trek with an overnight, might shrink to one day and save money.

I won't always fly. I won't always drive or take a train, but I like having the option.

Regional airports like Norwich International are, I believe, vital to how we commute around the UK. There must be a viable financial way of keeping them served with domestic flights.

Don't get me started on HS2!

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