HS2 offers the West Midlands a fantastic growth opportunity, that is well recognised, but I believe one area we perhaps haven’t spoken about enough is the opportunity it brings for potential expansion of Birmingham Airport. With the decision on a third runway imminent, Birmingham Airport has announced that it will be investing £100 million on improvements to its facilities and infrastructure, but how might this really allow us to capitalise on the opportunities for the region?
Living just 20 minutes away from Birmingham Airport I have the occasional plane going over my house on a Sunday and I therefore have a very personal interest in this. I use the road network leading to the airport on a daily basis and I have never been stuck in traffic resulting from it (a Justin Bieber concert or Crufts at the NEC is however a whole other matter!). In 2015, Resort World opened next door to the adjoining NEC complex and the HS2 terminal will be positioned not a million miles away. Furthermore, there are already regular train services to Birmingham International Station with a one-minute monorail journey dropping you at the airport.
I am not against Heathrow or Gatwick expansion – London is the capital city and there is no getting away from that being the economic powerhouse. Indeed, I think there is a clear case for expansion in the south east. However, as a relatively recent Midlands convert (I’ve worked in the Midlands for 13 years now) – I can also see the huge potential that this region can offer. It is clear that in a ‘Post Brexit Era’ we must look further than the south east and the Brexit vote told us that that is what the country as a whole want also.
HS2 and HS3 show that the Government think likewise – it is predicted that passenger traffic at Birmingham Airport could double with the opening of HS2. Expansion at Birmingham Airport would allow the West Midlands un-paralleled access to the global economy which is only right for the region hosting the UK’s second city (yes, I appreciate that point is worthy of a debate in itself).
Expansion of Birmingham Airport offers an immediate solution to an immediate problem. Last month, a number of high profile business leaders wrote to Theresa May backing expansion at Birmingham – these included several West Midlands MEP’s; the Chair of the Coventry and Warwickshire LEP and Baroness Burt of Solihull, as well as the CEO of Birmingham Airport (as expected). The letter highlighted the following:
- With HS2’s arrival in ten years, the airport will become the UK’s first high-speed connected airport and its catchment area will be dramatically enlarged into central London, giving it an increasingly national role.
- That the region’s economy could grow by up to £34 billion by 2030 if the Government continues to make decisions in view of rebalancing the UK economy.
With the Government committed to HS2 and Local Planning Authorities in the area already planning development around it; surely it’s only logical that Birmingham Airport be allowed to expand to capitalise on this and fully maximise its potential. We have to be joined up, Birmingham is growing but it is vital that we have the infrastructure and logistics to support this growth now and for the future. This growth will enable the West Midlands to thrive and I for one am certainly excited to see how successful the Midlands can become.
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