Birmingham Airport 'answer' to Heathrow capacity crisis
Birmingham Airport is setting out to quash the Government’s “infatuation” with Heathrow and the South East and stake its claim as an alternative gateway that can help alleviate London’s aviation crisis.
Paul Kehoe, the boss of Birmingham Airport, will press the button on an aggressive advertising campaign across the capital tomorrow as he hopes to claim a slice of London’s “overheating” aviation market.
He says Westminster should look beyond its own back yard and recognise that regional airports such as Birmingham can help solve the so-called “capacity crunch” in the South East, at little extra cost.
Mr Kehoe will tell politicians before publication of the Government’s long-awaited White Paper on aviation that Birmingham airport is only 70 minutes by train from central London and journey times will be reduced to less than an hour within the next two years following rail upgrades.
If the Government presses ahead with its High Speed Rail 2 project, journey times are projected to fall to as little as 38 minutes.
“For too long policy-makers have been infatuated with seeing airport expansion in the South East as the only solution to the problems facing Britain’s aviation industry,” Mr Kehoe said.
“Heathrow has been throwing its weight about trying to get a third runway back on the political agenda but the truth is that this reliance on a centralised airport system in the South East has made the industry too regional, uncompetitive and inflexible.”
Mr Kehoe pointed out that Germany had several hub airports, including Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Berlin, which are used as gateways between the country and the emerging markets.
He would like to see a similar system in the UK, also potentially involving airports such as Manchester.
“I’m not talking about taking over from Heathrow, I’m talking about being complementary,” he said.
Birmingham Airport, which is still majority owned by seven West Midlands district councils, currently transports just under 9m passengers a year but has capacity to accommodate 18m passengers.
It is undergoing a runway extension, which, when it is finished in 2014, will allow the airport to attract more long-distance carriers.
Currently, it serves destinations such as Delhi, Dubai and Florida but the full-length runway will allow it to accommodate planes that can fly to all of the key emerging markets, such as China, Brazil and South Africa.
Mr Kehoe said the word “hub”, which was used to argue Heathrow’s case for a third runway, was a “much-abused term”.
He said it was wrong to portray Heathrow as the only solution to the UK’s international travel needs. “Heathrow is overheating and its poor passenger experiences are damaging the UK’s international reputation,” he said.
Despite its spare capacity, traffic at Birmingham dropped from 9.2m in 2007 to 8.6m at the end of 2011 as leisure travellers fell away.