In which we present a regular round-up of news from the world of Grown-up Travel
Boris Johnson renews attack on government over airports
London mayor criticises delay in making decision and says new hub should be developed at Thames estuary or Stansted.
A new 24-hour four-runway hub airport to replace Heathrow should be developed immediately at Stansted or in the Thames estuary, Boris Johnson said on Thursday, as he criticised the government for delaying new runways and revealed that David Cameron had promised him millions to pay for feasibility studies.
The London mayor said the prime minister already had abundant evidence to make a decision on new airport capacity in the south-east, rather than await the verdict of the Howard Davies commission set to report in 2015.
Johnson reiterated his opposition to Heathrow expansion and said the government was “tiptoeing towards a political electric fence” after being “bewitched” by lobbying from the owners BAA.
He said BAA’s plans for a third runway would mean “not only introducing further suffering to hundreds of thousands of Londoners but new suffering to thousands more.
“I say to BAA and BA, forget it. It will not be built. No mayor of London could conceivably accept it.”
Johnson also made clear he saw expansion of Stansted as the only other viable option, although the mayor has been more closely associated with the Thames Estuary proposal.
He said he would co-operate with the Davies commission but refused in any way to be bound by its conclusions. He would continue to make his case “like an aeronautical Bill Cash”, referring to the veteran Tory backbench eurosceptic.
The mayor denied that the choice of date for his speech, coming just before the Conservative party conference, was significant, although the set piece event was apparently hastily arranged.
Johnson claimed that Heathrow could still have a viable future as a secondary airport, even if it was not the national hub, as a centre for direct freight and business travel.
Skiing: what’s new on the slopes
Skiing correspondent Peter Hardy reveals what’s new on the slopes this winter, from free lift passes to a magnetic chairlift.
An array of value-added deals, as well as new accommodation options, are on offer this winter as resorts and travel companies aim to secure their share of the ever-shrinking ski market.
Since the start of the recession, the number of British skiers has dropped by 27 per cent, and 330,000 fewer of us took to the slopes last winter than in 2008, according to an annual industry report.
But in 2011-12 the decrease had slowed to minus-1.8 per cent and the startling rate of new investment in the mountains suggests a widespread optimism on both sides of the Atlantic.
First to put its pounds on the pistes is Monarch Airlines (monarch.co.uk), which has introduced its first scheduled ski programme. It has up to four flights a week to Friedrichshafen, Munich, Innsbruck and Grenoble from Luton, Gatwick, Leeds Bradford, Birmingham and Manchester, from £34pp one-way. On the railways, a new weekly service to Switzerland, via Lille, will take skiers from London St Pancras to Geneva in just over eight hours, continuing on to stations such as Aigle, Martigny and Visp, for access to resorts of the Valais and Vaud cantons. The service starts in December and prices will be released this month.
For short breaks, Club Med (clubmed.co.uk) has introduced three- or four-night stays, with lessons and lift passes included, in resorts in France, Italy and Switzerland, from £575pp, without travel. Powder White (powderwhite.co.uk) offers flexible catered breaks in Verbier and Courchevel Moriond from £299pp, without travel.
ABBA museum to open in Stockholm, Sweden
A museum devoted to pop supergroup ABBA will open next year in the Swedish capital aiming to attract hundreds of thousands of visitors, organizers said.
The museum, a permanent exhibition within a hall of fame of Swedish pop music, will feature memorabilia like stage costumes worn by the singers. Visitors will also be able to sing along to ABBA songs alongside life size holograms of the group.
“Swedish pop music is an important part of our cultural heritage,” said former ABBA member Bjorn Ulvaeus, who is one of those behind the museum’s creation. “And ABBA is one of our most well-known brands.”
ABBA shot to fame when they won the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest with the song “Waterloo”.
They went on to become one of Sweden’s biggest exports with such hit songs as “Dancing Queen” and “Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight)”.
The group sold around 370 million records in total and are part of a rich Swedish pop tradition which includes Roxette, Ace of Base, Europe and Kent.
Dubai to build $1 billion Taj Mahal replica
It’s the city of opulence – a sweeping desert dotted with luxurious hotels.
But that’s just not enough for glamorous Dubai – it’s set to build a $US1 billion ($976 million) replica of the Taj Mahal.
Dubbed “Taj Arabia”, the massive complex will house a 300-room five-star hotel, apartments, restaurants, shops and offices.
The developers hope it will be a destination for weddings.
“The Taj is made as a monument of love and we hope to promote this in Dubai as a major wedding destination,” developer Arun Mehra said.
It will sit within the 227-square kilometre Dubailand, which the city hopes will be “the world’s greatest theme park”. Home to mock versions of the seven wonders of the world, it will be twice the size of all the Disneyland and Disney World resorts combined.
The Taj will be part of the Falcon City section, a large area of land designed to resemble a falcon spreading its wings. It’s due for completion in 2014.