Something To Declare: Alton Towers; Genoa; cheaper SA

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The Independent Travel

Destination of the week: Rita - Queen of Speed

Destination of the week: Rita - Queen of Speed

Alton Towers' new roller-coaster opens on 1 April. It features a force of 4.7G and accelerates from 0-60mph in 2.8 seconds. Midland Mainline trains are slower to get going, but cruise twice as fast. And if you take a fast train from London St Pancras or Leicester to Derby, and catch the bus to the theme park, you can enjoy Rita - Queen of Speed for less.

Every Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday until 29 October, the company (08457 125 678; www.midlandmainline.com) offers an all-inclusive day trip to Alton Towers. You must book by 6pm the day before, and travel out on the 8.25am from London (9.38am from Leicester). The trip back is on the 7pm from Derby. From London you pay £42, from Leicester £37, but book a week ahead and this falls further. The price includes return travel, transfers and entry to the park - normally £28 for anyone over 12.

Warning of the week: no go to Genoa

British Airways (0870 850 9 850; www.ba.com) has axed the home of Christopher Columbus from its schedules for a second time. The link from Gatwick was scrapped shortly after 11 September 2001, but was later reinstated. However, competition from Ryanair (0871 246 0000; www.ryanair.com), which flies to Genoa from Stansted, has forced fares so low that the route is no longer profitable. The Irish airline's no-frills services is now the only option from the UK to the city.

BA has also erased Frankfurt from its Gatwick network. Fierce competition between the UK and Cologne has resulted in very low fares to the Rhine, and a new station at Cologne airport has opened up access to destinations previously reached via Frankfurt.

Gatwick has some positive news from BA: the old routes from Heathrow to Bucharest, Thessalonika and Sofia have been revived from the Sussex airport, while new links to Split and Vilnius have been added. In addition, GB Airways is launching services from Gatwick to Crete's largest city, Heraklion, on behalf of British Airways.

The axe has fallen on BA's long-standing route from Manchester to Amsterdam, on which it faces competition from both KLM and Jet2. The link from Manchester to Bologna also ends. And falling demand has caused BA to abandon flights from Heathrow to Jeddah and Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.

Bargain of the week: cheaper ways to SA?

Air Namibia is set to return to the UK. Starting on 2 July the airline (01293 596654; www.airnamibia.com.na) will fly three times a week from Gatwick to the Namibian capital, Windhoek; return fares from £510.

A decade ago, when the airline last flew from the UK, it offered bargains via Windhoek: £375 return to Johannesburg, when the going rate was far higher.

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