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Government backs expansion of Birmingham Airport

Government backs expansion of Birmingham Airport

🕔25.Mar 2013

planesThe important role that Birmingham Airport will play in providing additional flight capacity and relieving congestion at Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted has been underlined by the Government.

An Aviation Policy Framework published by the Department for Transport sets out the case for regional airports such as Birmingham to develop new routes and provide an alternative offer to the overcrowded airports of London and the South-east of England.

It supports Birmingham Airport’s planned runway extension and programme to develop long-haul flights to India, China and the west coast of America, which it says will “help boost the West Midlands economy and ease capacity constraints as well as congestion at South-east airports”.

The report underlines Birmingham Airport’s importance to the West Midlands economy as a creator of employment and wealth, and should be seen in the context of proposals for regeneration schemes in the M42 Corridor by the Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP).

GBSLEP is to bid for a share of a £70 billion Government Single Pot fund to improve transport infrastructure between junctions 4 and 6 of the M42 and the surrounding area, taking in Birmingham Airport, Birmingham International rail station and the planned new high speed station – an initiative that would create thousands of new jobs.

The Aviation Policy Framework sets the scene for Sir Howard Davies’s independent Airports Commission, which is considering ways of providing additional UK aviation capacity and of solving overcrowding at London’s airports. The commission will publish an interim report later this year.

The document notes: “Birmingham Airport has recently completed a terminal development project that will enable the airport to cater for 18 million passengers, compared with the approximately nine million handled to date per year, and is taking forward plans for a runway extension.

“This will allow the airport to handle larger aircraft flying to more long-haul destinations from 2014, which will maximise regional opportunities and help meet additional UK demand.”

While backing Birmingham’s expansion plans, the framework makes it clear that even with the extended runway and new terminals the airport could be at capacity by 2025. A second runway, which was ruled out by Birmingham Airport a few years ago, would be the only way to substantially increase passenger capacity.

The framework makes it clear that regional airports have an important role to play: “There remains considerable scope for airports other than Heathrow to develop long-haul services to a broader range of destinations to support the UK’s international connectivity, primarily through growing point-to-point services or connections to overseas hubs.

It sets out four priorities for the short term:

  • Making best use of existing capacity to improve the passenger experience.
  • Encouraging new routes and services.
  • Supporting airports outside the South-east to grow and develop new routes.
  • Better integrating airports into the wider transport network.

Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin said he wanted to “support and challenge airports right across the UK” with the framework.

He added: “History shows that we need an agreed policy everyone can stick to before we try to act. Our aim is to achieve this through the Aviation Policy Framework and the work of the independent Airports Commission.

“The Government believes that aviation needs to grow, delivering the benefits essential to our economic wellbeing, whilst respecting the environment and protecting quality of life. The way ahead will be challenging as we work together to strike the right balance. But it is critical that we do so in order to safeguard our long-term economic prosperity.”

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