BA chief to advise on long-term priorities

Rod Eddington, the departing chairman of British Airways, is to advise the Government on Britain's long-term transport needs and priorities, the Chancellor revealed.

Mr Eddington, who is due to leave the airline this year, will advise on the impact of transport decisions on productivity, stability and growth and on longer-term priorities.

Officials insisted that Mr Eddington's brief would not cut across the functions of the advisory Commission for Integrated Transport which would continue to evaluate the direct impact of schemes and how all the different transport modes fitted together.

Mr Eddington, 55, who has spent much of his career in the airline industry, plans to retire from BA in September after becoming its chief executive in April 2000.

Mr Eddington intends to spend a few months touring Devon, Cornwall, the Lake District and the Wash before returning to his native Australia early next year. Willie Walsh, a former chief executive of Aer Lingus, will take over at British Airways, Europe's third-largest airline.

The Transport Secretary, Alistair Darling said Mr Eddington would "bring a fresh eye and business expertise" to the issue of long-term investment.

The Government has only recently updated its 10-year transport plan and officials said Mr Eddington would not be reviewing existing plans so much as bringing a fresh perspective. He would work directly with Mr Darling and Mr Brown.

Mr Eddington said: "I am excited to be asked by the Government to lead this work as I know that transport infrastructure is incredibly important to people's lives.

"My energy and work for British Airways will be undiminished and will not conflict with my new role for the Government."

The Future of Transport White Paper published last July set out a strategy for the next 30 years following the Government's rail review, which introduced radical changes to the structure of the industry, and the road pricing feasibility study which backed the long-term introduction of tolls.

Officials said the proposals were already being taken forward through major projects such as Crossrail, the Government's strategic road programme, and the Railways Bill. Ministers needed to understand the long-term impact that future transport decisions would have on productivity, stability and growth.