Frequent flyer Palin: I'll offer to resign

Critics of TV traveller's emission-filled globe-trotting say he should quit green transport pressure group

Anthony Barnes
Sunday 15 January 2006 01:00

Palin, the president of sustainable travel campaigners Transport 2000, is reported to have caused disquiet within the group that he set a "poor example" by flying around the world for his epic BBC programmes, and has become the subject of a whispering campaign among some members.

But Palin told The Independent on Sunday yesterday: "If Transport 2000 have people that want me to step down that's fine with me. I have never attempted to pretend that I don't take long plane journeys and I have written about it in Transport 2000's newsletter. Yes, I obviously am generating a lot of carbon emissions, but with the programmes I make I am bringing the world closer to a lot of people.

"It is more of an honorary title than an actual job and I'm not in day-to-day contact with the group although I do have good and regular contacts with the director, Stephen Joseph. But I have heard nothing from him or anyone else from Transport 2000 about this.

"The story doesn't really seem to be substantiated. I don't have any particular problem with Transport 2000. It's up to them entirely if they want to approach me about this."

In the past 18 years - beginning with his real-life effort to follow the journey taken in Jules Verne's classic Around the World in 80 Days - Palin has made six series using various modes of transport. However, his use of jet aircraft is a common factor in each of the journeys and during his last TV adventure, making the series Himalaya, he is said to have made seven return trips between the UK and Asia.

His trips to far-flung destinations have spurred others on to follow in his footsteps over the years and travel agents talk of the "Palin effect" which occurs when bookings surge after the presenter visits a new location.

But it has been claimed that his high-profile use of long-distance flights goes against the aims of Transport 2000. The body aims to reduce the environmental and social effects of transport by encouraging less reliance on cars, lorries and planes and further use of rail, buses, trams, cycling and walking. There were suggestions last year that Palin would discontinue his round the world travels, but dismissed these by saying: "The truth is that I could no more stop travelling than I could stop drawing breath."

The former Monty Python star, 62, has also become a best-selling author with his written accounts of the journeys he first began to undertake in 1988. He is now in the preparatory stages of his next series which may concentrate on European travel, although no firm decisions have been made.

Transport 2000 yesterday moved to reassure Palin that it was happy with his position as the group's figurehead. Mr Joseph said: "Michael Palin brings popular appeal, wisdom and a sense of proportion to the transport problems we as a society face today.

"Criticisms of the travelling he does as part of his job miss the point. After all, you can't make a travel series in a London studio unless you want it to turn out as an Ealing comedy. The real issue is that the issue of the environmental damage being done by aviation is something we must all address and Michael does brilliant work to bring this to people's attention. He has always rightly focused on the need for solutions to transport problems and flying is no exception."

Flight Log: Air miles of a former 'Python'

In the past two years, Michael Palin has made seven return trips from Britain to the Himalayas, flown to Australia and New Zealand, travelled to San Francisco and New York in the United States and gone to China and Tibet.

He has also managed to fit in return flights to Italy and to Spain.

The average jumbo jet pumps one ton of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere for every passenger it carries from London to New York.

In the past 17 years, Palin has made six television travel series, including Pole to Pole, Full Circle, Sahara and Himalaya.

The former Python's travels have seen him fly more than 250,000 miles.

It is estimated that Palin's journeys have, between them, created more than 44 tons of carbon dioxide.

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