Independent Travel Awards 2015: Grudge matches take centre stage on the inaugural shortlist

The aviation categories are particularly hard fought

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The Independent Travel

Ryanair vs easyJet, Southend airport vs Singapore and Great Western Railway vs the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express: three of the grudge matches set up in the shortlist for the inaugural Independent Travel Awards. And will a motorway service station on the M5 prevail over a new tunnel on the Karakorum Highway between Pakistan and China?

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of readers’ nominations and thousands of votes have been distilled down to a shortlist for the judges - who include i editor Oliver Duff, TV adventurer Ben Fogle, Lonely Planet co-founder Tony Wheeler and head of travel for The Independent, Sophie Lam.

Aviation categories are particularly hard fought, with four UK airports up against four foreign contenders. In the UK, Heathrow, London City, Manchester and Southend made the shortlist. They will take on the familiar trio of Amsterdam Schiphol, Hong Kong and Singapore Changi, plus Calgary in Canada.

The same home-and-away proportions apply for the best European airline. British Airways and three UK low-cost rivals - easyJet, Jet2 and Monarch - are set against four foreign airlines: Aegean Airlines of Greece, the Dutch airline KLM, Ryanair of Ireland and Vueling of Spain.

On the trains, Great Western Railway’s Night Riviera between London and Cornwall rated strongly, alongside Argentinian Railways for its rejuvenated “Train to the Clouds” and a new 10-minute, £1 train across the border to Paraguay.

Among ferry companies, essential lifeline providers such as Caledonian MacBrayne of Scotland and Scillonian Ferries of England, as well as reliable workhorses P&O Ferries and Brittany Ferries, compete with more exotic options: Navigazione Lago di Como in the Italian Lakes and Istanbul’s network of Bosphorus Ferries.

“Destination innovations” include Gloucester Services on the M5, the revitalised Gobbins Cliff Path on the coast of Antrim and the Attabad Lake Tunnel on the Karakorum Highway in Pakistan, dug to overcome the effects of a massive landslip on the high-altitude route to China.

The Reader’s Choice Award celebrates inspirational figures in travel. David Attenborough, Patrick Leigh Fermor and Michael Palin will be familiar; Joy Swift MBE may not be, but her citation explains she “Invented the idea of Murder Mystery themed events, creating a worldwide industry of themed events.”

The Independent Travel Awards combine public acclaim with insider expertise to recognise outstanding travel providers worldwide. The winners will be revealed at an exclusive event at Corinthia London on 7 October. The full shortlist is online at