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Flights and trains between UK and EU after Brexit 'increasingly a cause for concern’ says Department for Transport

‘Our confidence at the moment in the programme is somewhat decreasing,’ said Lucy Chadwick, director general at the Department for Transport

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Thursday 25 October 2018 11:11 BST
Air and rail travel links in jeopardy according to Lucy Chadwick, director general at the Department for Transport

Flights and trains between the UK and the European Union after Brexit look increasingly in jeopardy in the event of no withdrawal deal being agreed, the Department for Transport (DfT) has said.

Lucy Chadwick, director general at the DfT, told the Public Accounts Committee that agreements on air and rail services between Britain and the EU comprise “an area of growing concern to us”.

At present UK airlines have unlimited rights to fly anywhere in the EU due to the “open skies” arrangement.

After Brexit, there is currently no legislation for British carriers to fly to the European Union, nor for foreign airlines to serve the UK – and five months before the leaving date, 29 March 2019, negotiations over flight rights have yet to start.

Ms Chadwick admitted that talks with individual countries or Brussels about route access had not begun, saying: “Where we are actually in our discussions around air services agreements: we have not been able to start those bilateral discussions or multilateral discussions yet with either member states or indeed with the Commission.”

For Eurostar trains, Ms Chadwick said: “Although we have started rail bilateral discussions with our counterparts in France, Belgium and Holland, it’s at a very early stage.”

“Our confidence at the moment in the programme [of readiness for Brexit] is somewhat decreasing because of the dependence on those bilaterals and given where we are,” said Ms Chadwick.

“That increasingly will become a cause for concern for us.”

Ms Chadwick was appearing before MPs alongside the permanent secretary at the DfT, Bernadette Kelly.

They told the committee that three issues were currently rated as “red,” indicating very serious concerns about deliverability: aviation, rail links and driving licences.

In its technical notices about what would happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the DfT says that to drive or rent a car in the EU after 29 March 2019, “you may need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP)”.

The permit – which has two types, depending on the destination country, costs £5.50. The government has promised: “From 1 February 2019, you will be able to apply for both 1949 and 1968 types of IDP at 2,500 Post Offices across the UK.”

But so far no agreement has been signed with the Post Office.

Bernadette Kelly was also questioned about the Crossrail fiasco, in which the £15.4bn project for a fast east-west link beneath London was abruptly postponed barely three months before it was due to open.

She told MPs that Transport for London would be expected to cope with the extra costs and reduced revenue caused by the delay.

“London is the beneficial of Crossrail, and London will need to find a way of bearing the costs of this delay,” she said.

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