Rise in the number of direct air routes is welcome news

Morning View
Morning View

The tour operator Falcon Holidays and Thomson are to operate direct flights from Dublin to Mexico and Jamaica.

Gradually in recent years, the number of non-stop flight destinations on offer in Ireland has been increasing again. It hit a high just before the financial crash, with more than 50 destinations on offer from Dublin.

That airport is within easy distance of the most populous eastern parts of Northern Ireland now, thanks to the motorway which leaves travellers at the door.

The bus company Aircoach have also greatly improved public transport access to Dublin Airport, which is now 24 hours. Before they entered the market a decade or so ago, the transport links were woeful, with the first bus from Belfast getting in well after 10am (and therefore only of use to travellers on afternoon flights).

There was also an increase in air routes from Belfast this week, with the KLM flight to Amsterdam.

Sadly, though, the number of direct destinations from Northern Ireland is limited. This is partly due to the fact that there are two significant airports near Belfast, which makes it harder to get a critical mass for such flights.

It also makes it harder to justify an expensive rail link to Aldergrove, which has a much smaller amount of passengers than it would have if it was not for Belfast City.

The appeal of the two airports to southern travellers is plainly not helped by the poor road infrastructure, particularly to Aldergrove. Travellers from Belfast using Dublin have a motorway the entire distance, and do not have to go near Dublin. The reverse is not true - anyone from Dublin using the Belfast airports either has to go through Belfast on the Westlink or crawl behind tractors and lorries on the tortuous single carriageway A26 north of Moira.

The hundreds of millions of pounds a year that would be saved if welfare reform was enacted here would be better spent on such infrastructure.