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Talking Shop: Green Tax? Pull the Other One Gordon

Jan 21, 2007

But as you pack your bucket and spade in readiness, don't forget to come to terms with your carbon footprint.

In other words, the environmental impact of that aircraft flight to your favourite sun spot - not to mention the air con.

The modern way is to seek to offset the damage by working out the cost and then committing an equivalent sum to some worthy green charity in the third world.

So while you're enjoying the dolce vita, your conscience is salved because trees are being planted in the rain forest or a distant township is benefiting from long-life light bulbs.

Complicated stuff, but to make matters more straightforward the Government is doing the arithmetic for you.

Gordon Brown's hike in Airport Passenger Duty takes effect on February 1 and, as anyone who has booked a flight now knows, you can't dodge the levy.

Even if you reserved your seat and paid your money way before the Pre-Budget Report in December, you are still going to be clobbered for the extra cash.

Needless to say, the no-frills airlines are bristling about the move, because they are having to act as unpaid tax collectors.

APD has doubled and the result is that every departing passenger has to pay pound(s)5 more, meaning a total of pound(s)10 for a European flight.

For long-haul passengers, it is up from pound(s)20 to pound(s)40 every time you take off from an airport in the UK, with an even greater surcharge for business class or first class punters.

The only crumb of comfort is that the charge only applies one way - so you do not have to make any additional payment for your flight home.

Fine idea in principle, but how much of the extra money the Treasury is raking in is actually going to help save the planet?

That is the question, and it is one that the budget airlines would love its disgruntled passengers to put to the Chancellor. Answers on a postcard, please, ideally penned from your sun lounger beside the pool.About turn on car insurance

As the Consumer Council never tires of reminding us, the best way to save money is to shop around.

And there's no better marketplace at present than the car insurance sector.

With internet companies battling it out with local brokers, it is at last turning into something of a buyer's market.

One regular reader was more than a little taken aback to receive a renewal quotation for pound(s)432 for the family.

A quick search online produced a more acceptable quote of pound(s)362, for what looked like the same terms and conditions.

Back to the original broker where they undertook to see what they could do.

Lo and behold, after a short pause, it emerged that the insurance company was now prepared not simply to match the online price but to do the business for pound(s)268.

Talk about a top gear remedy for the bank balance!Talk about quick, hey!

The Flying Scotsman and the Brighton Belle will always have their place in railway folklore but now let's hear it for the 15.50 Fridays-only to Ballymena.

The train makes its debut this week as one of the improvements in NIR's new timetable, and already the province's train buffs are salivating at the prospect.

Reason being that the 15.50 will be making its own little bit of railway history by being the first train in Northern Ireland for some years to run point to point at a speed of a mile a minute.

The 15.50 runs non-stop from Belfast Central to Ballymena, a distance of precisely 32.5 miles, in a time of just 32 minutes.

According to the cognoscenti, the last mile a minute schedule on NIR was between Coleraine and Londonderry in the 1970s.

Trains were allowed 27 minutes for the 27.75 mile section along the bank of Lough Foyle. But timings were slowed by an additional stop at Bellarena.

On the longer distance cross- border services, the Enterprise operates at speeds of up to 90mph and the fastest point to point timing is the 64 minutes allowed for the 69.5 miles from Dublin to Newry on one train a day.

But on NIR, it is the 15.50 which deserves the blue riband.

(c) 2007 Belfast Telegraph. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.

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