Saturday 17 April 2010

Northern Ireland's Dependancy On Air Travel

The eruption of Iceland's Eyjafjallajoekull volcano has revealed just our fascinating the earth can be. But it has also highlighted how very precarious our position in Northern Ireland actually is.

We're well into Day 3 of the effects of the eruption and the ash in the skies has forced the National Air Traffic Service to effectively prohibit all flights within UK air space. Air travel has been an absolute necessity for many people in recent years. Whether it is for business or pleasure, the world is a smaller place in part due to the availability of cheap flights.

But Northern Ireland is in a very precarious position in UK terms. For business people in Northern Ireland, a reliable air service to mainland UK is absolutely crucial! easyJet, FlyBE and Ryanair are critical to the success of Northern Ireland businesses and the unavailability of flights in the last 3 days has hit the economy hard.

More importantly, the last time Eyjafjallajoekull erupted, it pumped ash into the atmosphere for over a year. Could the Northern Ireland economy sustain a flight-free period lasting so long? And personally, could I put up with that situation bearing in mind that I do travel quite a bit to the mainland?

High-speed broadband makes it easier to video conference, communicate or shunt data in large volumes. But it is often imperative to "press the flesh" and being unable to do so would put the talent in Northern Ireland at a serious disadvantage.

So what are the answers? Faster ferries? An Irish Sea Tunnel? A 27-mile bridge? A change in attitude towards a way of working that does not require "flesh-pressing"?

I don't have the answers but I do look towards Eyjafjallajoekull and hope that it stops spewing out the ash. My livelihood is at risk!

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