Birmingham airport ‘genuine alternative’ to Heathrow

Birmingham airport is moving to establish itself as a genuine alternative to capacity squeezed airports in the South East such as Heathrow.

An aggressive advertising campaign is due to be unveiled in London tomorrow highlighting Birmingham’s position as an alternative gateway.

Chief executive Paul Kehoe says the government recognise that regional airports such as Birmingham can help solve the so-called “capacity crunch” in the London area at little extra cost.

He 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,” Kehoe told the Daily Telegraph.

“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.”

He 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.

Kehoe 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.

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 added.

Birmingham airport handles under 9 million passengers a year but has capacity to accommodate double that amount.

A runway extension, due for completion in 2014, will allow the airport to attract more long haul airlines from emerging markets such as China, Brazil and South Africa.

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