Karen Lumley MP on why Birmingham is backing Gatwick for the greater competition it offers the UK’s regions
“While the airports expansion discussion has predominantly focussed on the fates of two London airports – Heathrow and Gatwick – the pressing issue of regional connectivity has also entered the debate this week. And rightly so.
“At face value this is simply a debate about two London airports but dig deeper and it also has a bearing on passengers and businesses the length and breadth of the UK – which London airport is allowed to expand presents either a huge opportunity or a very real danger for the UK’s regions.
“There is no denying Heathrow is a fantastic airport – I have used it many times and had the pleasure of attending the opening of Terminal 2 last year. But single-mindedly expanding the UK’s biggest airport is short-sighted and not the answer the UK needs from the current debate.
“Rather than expanding Heathrow and reinforcing its dominant market position at the expense of other airports, the real opportunity this debate offers us is the chance for greater competition.
“Following the break-up of the BAA monopoly in 2009, we have seen a more competitive airport market in recent years – it is no coincidence that airports like Manchester or Birmingham Airport near my own constituency have thrived in recent years, seeing record passenger numbers and new long-haul connections.
“Competition has been shown to work and it must be given chance to continue.
“If we are to give the green light to the multi-billion pound expansion of one of London’s airports, it has to be done in a way that does not threaten the future of other UK airports.
“My long-term preference is for Birmingham Airport to be give chance to expand, but I am pragmatic and realise we will have to fight one battle at a time. So the current debate gives us a straight choice between Gatwick and Heathrow – we need to make a decision that is not only right for what the UK needs now, but which also paves the way for future debates involving other UK airports.
“It is for that reason that myself and other key figures in Britain’s second city are backing a second runway at Gatwick.
“It is the only option that gives us the extra capacity and economic boost we need but without closing the door on the ambitions of other UK airports to compete and grow in future.
“In such a lengthy, complex debate there are no easy answers but it seems to be the closest we will get to a win-win solution – Gatwick gets bigger, Heathrow gets better and other airports around the UK can continue to grow in the future.”
Report by Oxera for Birmingham Airport criticises Commission’s analysis on impacts of Heathrow runway on regional airports
Birmingham Airport has commissioned a study by economic analysts, Oxera, to look at the Airports Commission’s analysis of impacts of Heathrow expansion on regional airports – Birmingham in particular. Oxera believes a 3rd Heathrow runway would exacerbate, rather than reduce, regional imbalances and by sucking more business into the south-east, Heathrow expansion would just widen the north/south divide. Oxera say the methodology used by PwC, on behalf of the Airports Commission, could hide winners and losers in UK regions, and underplays the negative effect that Heathrow expansion could have on some UK regions. They believe there should be better analysis of where the national losses and gains would be, and how they would be distributed. CEO of Birmingham, Paul Kehoe, seems to be more in favour of a Gatwick runway, which presumably threatens Birmingham less. Kehoe said: “Whilst Heathrow is essential and must remain a world class airport for the UK and for the Midlands to grow, Heathrow must become complementary to Birmingham Airport. More capacity at Heathrow would limit our region’s ambitions.” The Midlands claims to be responsible for 16% of all UK exports.
See also, about Heathrow trying to entice regional airports with promises of domestic flight links in future:
Heathrow would spend £10 million to increase some domestic flights, only if granted a 3rd runway, to get backing from regions
Heathrow has increasingly cut the number of flights to UK regional airports, as it has become more uneconomic for the airlines to run them – and long haul international routes are more profitable. But Heathrow is aware that it needs to get the backing of regional airports, in order to lobby to be allowed a 3rd runway. Heathrow therefore suggested the setting up of a National Connectivity Task Force. In order to boost flights to the regions, Heathrow now says that – only IF it gets a new runway – it will spend £10 million on for the development of 5 new domestic routes, for 3 years. These would include Newquay, Humberside and Liverpool. That would be in addition to the 4 extra routes that easyJet has said it wants to operate if there is a Heathrow runway, to Inverness, Belfast International, the Isle of Man and Jersey. There are currently 6 domestic routes from Heathrow (Leeds Bradford, Belfast City, Manchester, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Newcastle). Heathrow also said it would launch a review of its airport charges in the coming weeks to focus on making domestic flights more commercially attractive (cheaper) to airlines. The results of this consultation, which is not dependent upon getting a new runway, will be effective from January 2016.