Birmingham airport promoters boosted by Lib Dem enthusiasm for regional hub airports
Those lobbying for Birmingham Airport to expand to become a regional hub are expecting their campaign will get a major boost when Liberal Democrats urge the Government to block new runways at Heathrow – and expand regional hubs instead at their autumn party conference in September. A motion by Julian Huppert calls for UK aviation to be based on accessibility from north and south; moving non-hub flights away from Heathrow, and making best use of existing airport capacity with improved transport links to Gatwick, Stansted, Luton,Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh.
Delegates at the party conference in Brighton next month are likely to endorse a motion backed by Lib Dem MPs which highlights the potential for growth at Birmingham.
But the plea will put them at odds with some of their coalition partners, after a number of Conservative backbenchers backed new runways at Heathrow.
Transport Secretary Justine Greening, a Conservative, is working on an aviation strategy which has been repeatedly delayed. She has praised Birmingham Airport in recent months, but she is under pressure from some Tory colleagues and from London’s business community to allow new runways to go ahead at Heathrow, even though this was explicitly ruled out in the Conservative general election manifesto. Birmingham Airport argues that a planned runway extension will allow it to serve 27 million passengers a year, up from nine million at the moment, and to provide long-distance flights to locations such as India and China. High speed rail will also make Birmingham as convenient as Heathrow, the airport says.
But it insists it needs formal government backing to allow it to expand, and is lobbying the Government to reject calls for a new runway at Heathrow.
The campaign is set for a boost when Lib Dems debate a motion proposed by MP Julian Huppert, Co-Chair of the party’s Parliamentary Committee on Transport, and backed by colleagues including Solihull MP Lorely Burt (Lib Dem Solihull).
The motion states: “Aviation policy has to date focused on London and the South-East; it is clear that that is where the greatest demand lies, but airports and foreign travel for business or leisure must be easily accessible for citizens living across the UK.
“With Birmingham looking to expand, Stansted only half full and Gatwick expanding into emerging markets, regional airports and other airports within London can meet demand for years to come.”
And it calls on the Government to reject calls for new runways at Heathrow, Gatwick or Stansted, as well as London Mayor Boris Johnson’s proposal for a new Thames Estuary airport.
As well as highlighting Birmingham, the motion calls specifically for better use of existing capacity at Gatwick Airport. It also states that the UK will need a single hub airport in the long term, although this should not be Heathrow.
It calls on the Government to set up “an independent, evidence based study to find a suitable location for a hub airport, or a suitable airport to expand into a hub.”
Ms Burt said: “It is really important that, before we start spending billions on Boris’ new airport or clogging up the area around Heathrow even more, we look at the capacity that already exists in our regional airports, and in particular at Birmingham.
“Birmingham could double its current passenger numbers without any need for a new runway.
“If we focus entirely on the south east, then other parts of the country are never going to reach their potential.”
Mr Huppert said: “Aviation policy has focused on London and the South East and it is clear that is where the greatest demand lies; but airports and foreign travel for business or leisure must be easily accessible for citizens living across the UK. ” A report by Tory backbenchers including Harriet Baldwin (Con, West Worcestershire) and Jesse Norman (Con, Herefordshire) called in July for not one but two new runways at Heathrow.
Published by the Free Enterprise Group, which includes a number of younger Conservative MPs, the study was called Seven Shots in the Arm of Britain.
It said: “The Government should grant planning permission for both a third and fourth runway at Heathrow.
“Britain’s hub airport Heathrow is currently at 99 per cent capacity, and London’s other airports are nearly as full. Demand is predicted to double over the next few decades.
“If new aviation capacity is not found, London’s position as a world business hub will be damaged. Heathrow is almost unique among major world airports in only having two runways, with no plans or further construction.”
Business leaders in the West Midlands including Jerry Blackett, chief executive of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group, criticised the report at the time.
Lib Dem motion to party conference, by Julian Huppert, says no new south east runways
Date added: August 16, 2012
Julian Huppert, Lib Dem MP for Cambridge, has put forward an aviation policy motion for the Lib Dem party conference in September. The motion aims to balance the benefits the aviation industry brings with the harm it causes to the environment. It reinforces the party’s opposition to new runways at London’s airports, and if firmly rejects a Thames estuary airport. It proposes making better use of existing capacity in the South-East and at regional airports to meet short to medium-term demand, and an independent, evidence-based study to find a location for a hub airport or a suitable airport to expand into a hub for the long-term. Importantly, it pushes for no airport capacity expansion which could allow for aircraft movements above the carbon emissions cap set by the independent Committee on Climate Change. They want mimimum impact on local people and on the environment. The mention the Per Plane Duty (PPD).
Part of the Julian Huppert Lib Dem aviation motion states:
4. UK Aviation policy to be based on five key principles:
a) Accessibility from North and South.
b) Growth within UK carbon budgets.
c) Minimal impact to local population.
d) Minimal impact to the local environment.
e) Maximum hubbing potential.
5. The UK to make best use of existing capacity through:
a) Movement of point-to-point flights which do not serve our hub capability from Heathrow to other airports; this would be done through a re-negotiation of EU slot allocation rules and the introduction of slot auctioning – failing that, we support the introduction of a departure tax at Heathrow to shift less profitable non-hub flights.
b) An end to cross-subsidy of lower landing fees at Heathrow.
c) The introduction of a Per-Plane-Duty (PPD) in place of APD to incentivise fully-loaded planes; in the mean time, we support a revenue neutral shift in APD rates to discourage short-haul flights, which can be made on land, and to encourage long-haul hubbing – APD and PPD rates should be based on distance to airports, not to capital cities.
d) Use of existing capacity and improved transport links at Gatwick, Stansted, Luton,Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh – the priority should be better use of capacity at Gatwick, which has already shown the ability to access emerging markets across Asia through new point-to-point routes.
Midlands MPs and business people say a 2nd runway at Birmingham would boost regional growth
August 30, 2012
A letter in the Telegraph, signed by 35 MPs and 41 business people from the Midlands area, backs the expansion of Birmingham airport. The letter says the Midlands needs global air links to emerging markets, rather than just having the national hub airport in the south of England. They say airports in the great industrial cities in the Midlands, such as Birmingham, have huge spare capacity. They also talk of Birmingham having a second runway, and with that its capacity could rise from the current 8.6 million passengers annually (in 2011) up to 50 million. They are calling on the Government to support expansion of Birmingham’s airport to maximise regional growth. Back in September 2007 the airport abandonned plans for a 2nd runway, saying it was not needed and there would be enough capacity for up to 27 million passengers per year up to 2030.