Birmingham Airport chief steps up campaign to get high-speed rail link

1.9.2009   (Birmingham Post)

by Paul Dale

Birmingham Airport  chief executive Paul Kehoe has stepped up his campaign to
bring a high-speed rail service to the airport by condemning Birmingham International
station as "tired" and little improved since the 1970s.

Arguing strongly for a new public transport hub at BIA and the NEC, where 200mph
services to and from London would stop, Mr Kehoe said failure to plan for a new
station now would cost future jobs and investment and contribute to economic decline
in the West Midlands.

Network Rail, which last month published its version of what a £40 billion high-speed
service might look like, envisages trains running from London to Birmingham city
centre and on to the North West, but bypassing the airport/NEC.

The omission triggered a concerted effort by airport bosses to galvanise Birmingham
and West Midlands opinion.

Last week, Mr Kehoe said Network Rail’s proposals lacked joined-up thinking and
were devised primarily to benefit Scotland and the north of England.

Now, writing in this month’s Railnews magazine, Mr Kehoe says the region has
failed to capitalise on improvements 30 years ago when construction of Birmingham
International and a new fast inter-city service made it possible to travel to
London in 89 minutes.

The fast journey times helped create a new confidence in Birmingham and underpinned
major regeneration including the International Convention Centre, Symphony Hall,
Brindleyplace and the Bullring shopping centre, he added.

Describing a high-speed rail link between BIA and London as the "single most
important thing to influence the West Midlands economy" since the arrival of rail
in Birmingham in 1837, Mr Kehoe said: "We have to evolve and welcome the world
– and make it easier for the world to reach us – and we have made some big leaps
forward. But it has to be recognised that what was good in the 1960s and tolerable
in the1970s is not good enough in the 21st century.

"Birmingham International is now a tired parkway for travel towards London, rather
than the exciting gateway to the Midlands that it once was.

"Journey times from Birmingham to London are just five minutes faster than they
were in the 1970s."

Calling for a hub to be built at or very close to BIA, the NEC and the existing
station, Mr Kehoe said the transport interchange would "plug into" businesses
in the M42 corridor, which is the only significant location in the West Midlands
where economic output is above the national average.

He added: "Without the hub, there is a risk of long-term economic decline across
one of the most successful parts of the Midlands.

"A high-speed line that runs direct from central Birmingham to Heathrow and bypasses
the airport/NEC could siphon off job opportunities to the South East and also
exacerbate the volume of needless journeys to Heathrow."


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