Midlands business leaders react to Heathrow delay

Midlands business leaders react to Heathrow delay

Business leaders across the West Midlands have urged the government to put forward a strategy for making best use of existing airport capacity in the wake of the latest runway delay.

The government has spent the past five months reviewing the conclusions of the Airports Commission, after the commission itself spent three years looking into the future of UK aviation.

The government has now announced that it will not be making a final decision until summer 2016, rather than late 2015 as originally stated.

On 1 July, the Airports Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, recommended that the Heathrow northwest third runway scheme be taken forward.

Birmingham Airport has since argued for a strategic network of long-haul airports throughout the UK, each supporting the comparative economic advantage of that region, rather than all focus being on a hub airport.

Paul Kehoe, CEO of Birmingham Airport, said: “The UK needs a proper aviation strategy if we are going to succeed in plugging every region into global business opportunities.

“We have said throughout the Airports Commission process that the review was failing to consider the whole UK economy, the changes that HS2 will bring, or any policies for making best use of existing capacity in the 10 to 15 years it will take to build a new South East runway.

“This fresh delay is making a new South East runway look more distant than ever. It is therefore vital that the government comes forward with plans to support the UK’s network of long-haul airports now, to relieve pressure on the congested South East.”

Paul Faulkner, chief executive of the GBCC, added: “This really is developing into a farcical mess but it does give the government the opportunity to take another serious look at Birmingham Airport and HS2.

“The government must consider the impact that HS2 will have in the future. You cannot plan for a sea-change in the UK’s transport infrastructure without taking into account the difference high speed connections between London and Birmingham will make.

“It will put Birmingham Airport in prime position as the UK’s most convenient airport for long-haul flights. To ignore this is nonsensical.”

Over the course of the past three and half years, Birmingham Airport has presented the Airports Commission and government with evidence of the role that new road and rail investment, HS2 and changes to taxation can play in making best use of existing UK runway capacity, as an alternative to Heathrow expansion.

Independent research published in October found that cutting Air Passenger Duty by 100% at Birmingham Airport would attract 2.9 million additional passengers, delivering £521m more per year and 12,000 new jobs across the UK. The reform would also enable Birmingham Airport to clawback demand that is currently putting pressure on South East airports. 

The report also found that HS2 can help attract 750,000 additional passengers to Birmingham Airport per year by enlarging its catchment area to London and the north.

This would enable the Airport to deliver £52m more per year and 1,300 new jobs across the UK.