The Black Country Chamber of Commerce says that the delay over whether to build a new runway at Heathrow will strengthen the case for making better use of Britain’s regional airports. In response to the announcement that the solution to aviation congestion in the South East will be delayed six months, Colin Leighfield, Chair of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce’s Transport Group said: “The Government should use this time to explore how HS2 can be used to support a regional airport strategy as an alternative to expansion in Heathrow. There is more to aviation strategy than environmental concerns.”
The Airports Commission’s recommendations for expanding aviation capacity were published earlier this year. The Commission has unanimously concluded that the proposal for a new northwest runway at Heathrow Airport, combined with a significant package of measures to address its environmental and community impacts, presents the strongest case.
“Businesses in the West Midlands do not recognize the conclusions of the Commission for the following reasons: the strategic economic benefits quoted in the report would apply to any development that eased aviation congestion. Focusing the nucleus of economic development in the South East will undo any rebalancing that HS2, the ‘Midlands Engine’ or the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ might achieve,” continued Colin Leighfield.
“The need for a hub and spoke model is a myth. The biggest orders from our main airlines are for ‘hub busting’ aircraft such as the Boeing 787 Dreamliner which can fly long distances without the need for a hub. In any case, it is Dubai that is acknowledged as the ‘world’s hub’ and none of our airports can ever compete with them.”
“TfL have recently announced that the road and rail infrastructure in London is unlikely to cope with the increased number of passengers from a third runway. Replacing aviation congestion with road and rail congestion is not a reasonable trade off. Furthermore we understand that the environmental issues raised will not be addressed by the package of measures in the Airports Commission’s recommendations.”
“West Midlands businesses want to use Birmingham Airport. We know this is running under capacity. Spending £5 billion rerouting the M25 to accommodate the third runway seems to be questionable, particularly at a time when other transport opportunities across the country would welcome this funding. The West Midlands Aviation Opportunity report published in October underlines the economic growth potential of Birmingham Airport: a contribution of £1.1 billion GVA. The West Midlands deserves its own first class airport. We do not want people travelling unnecessarily to Heathrow or Manchester airports when Birmingham is on their door step.”
Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce CEO Paul Faulkner added: “The delay in the decision on a third runway emphasises the importance of regional airports such as Birmingham Airport. While any solution is likely to take years to approve and build, there is opportunity for regional airports to use their free capacity to ease congestion in the south-east. Supporting a network of regional airports will benefit businesses locally and support the rebalancing of the economy, which the government has repeatedly emphasised. In addition to recent rail and road investment announcements, the government can further use changes in tax to help make the best use of UK runway capacity.
“We know the government needs to deal with congestion in the South East, but a solution is likely to take years to approve and build. Without a remedial solution in the short to medium term there will be significant consequences on the growth of the economy, as well as aviation. Supporting a network of regional airports will benefit businesses locally and support the rebalancing of the economy, which the government has repeatedly emphasised. In addition to recent rail and road investment announcements, the government can further use changes in tax to help make the best use of UK runway capacity.”