Valerie Steve Winwood
10 June 2013, 12:41
A West Midlands airport has announced ambitious expansion plans it hopes will challenge Heathrow.
Birmingham Airport, together with a coalition of business leaders and local councils, said proposals will create more than a quarter of a million new jobs in the Midlands.
The airport's ``vision'' supports growth of up to 70 million passengers each year and up to 500,000 air transport movements from an expanded facility.
The plans for long-term economic growth will also support the development of a business park for the Midland's manufacturing sector alongside the expanded site, and one of Europe's biggest conference centres at the NEC, all based at the cross-roads of Britain's road and rail systems.
Figures released by Birmingham Airport bosses said that in 2011 three million business trips were made from Birmingham Airport; economic consultancy Capital Economics has predicted that by 2032 the airport could serve up to 18 million business travellers, second only to Heathrow
Paul Kehoe, chief executive of Birmingham Airport, said: ``Great cities like Birmingham deserve great airports. In 20 years' time British air travel will double and it is widely acknowledged that all the country's long-haul traffic cannot be routed through one airport in West London.
``Instead, we believe that the best thing for UK aviation is to create a network of long-haul national airports, each supporting the comparative economic advantages of that region to boost trade, foreign investment and tourism.''
Airport bosses said three million people making business trips from the airport's catchment area travel to Heathrow each year.
The region is home to half a million businesses, 6.5 million employees and specialises in high-value manufacturing sectors.
Expanding Birmingham Airport alongside the M42 gateway project and High Speed Two is a ``once in a generation opportunity'' to meet the UK's aviation capacity needs.
With its transport links, long-haul runway and spare capacity for 27 million passengers, Birmingham Airport has been arguing to the Airports Commission, which is examining the need for additional UK airport capacity, that it can offer much-needed capacity in the short-term.
This recent announcement gives Birmingham the ability to play its part in the long-term strategy too, an airport spokeswoman said.
Over the next 20 years annual passenger numbers will increase by 220 million passengers and plans for an additional runway at Heathrow only offers additional capacity for 20 million passengers.
Mark Garnier MP, Conservative MP for Wyre Forest and chairman of the West Midlands APPG said: ``A global travel hub at Birmingham Airport will bring long-haul air-travel to within one hour of the airport for 45 million people by 2032 when the HS2 network is fully operational. This will make it the most accessible airport in Britain''.