Birmingham Airport wildly optimistic in anticipating 8,000 jobs from its runway extension

David Cameron has visited Birmingham airport, and effusively welcoming the announcement that 8,000 new jobs would be created, principally as a result of the long-awaited runway extension, with anticipated direct links to destinations like the West Coast of America and China. Shamelessly linking the airport jobs announcement with totally unrelated Government tax-cutting measures, the PM boomed: “The announcement of 8,000 jobs from Birmingham Airport is more great news in a week when we are cutting tax for 26 million hard-working people and taking over three million people out of income tax altogether.” Paul Kehoe used the PM’s visit for his PR purposes.  Kehoe says by 2020 he forecasts Birmingham airport will have 15 million passengers a year, up from 9 million now. He claims this will create 4,000 jobs on-site and a further 4,000 in the immediate supply chain (doubtful figures, generally involving much double counting and optimism). “Politicians and business leaders are very good at talking the talk, but not always so assiduous at walking the walk.”



Birmingham Airport job hopes raise a few ghosts from distant past

10.4.2014  (Birmingham Post)


David Cameron visited Birmingham Airport last week, effusively welcoming the announcement that 8,000 new jobs would be created.

Chris Radburn/PA Wire
Prime Minister David Cameron at Birmingham Airport

David Cameron is not a man to hide his light under a bushel, as you might expect from a Prime Minister with an election due in just over a year.

There he was at Birmingham Airport last week, effusively welcoming the announcement that 8,000 new jobs would be created, principally as a result of the long-awaited runway extension, with anticipated direct links to the likes of the West Coast of America and China.

Shamelessly linking the airport jobs announcement with totally unrelated Government tax-cutting measures, the PM boomed: “The announcement of 8,000 jobs from Birmingham Airport is more great news in a week when we are cutting tax for 26 million hard-working people and taking over three million people out of income tax altogether.”

Not surprisingly, Birmingham Airport Chief Executive Paul Kehoe provided more flesh on the bones, saying: “Receiving this endorsement from the Prime Minister as our runway extension nears completion is fantastic for everyone involved in the project. Birmingham is recognised as an airport that is delivering real growth and supporting thousands of new jobs.

“The main driver for this growth is the runway extension. By 2020, based on today’s demand, Birmingham Airport is forecast to handle 15 million passengers a year, an increase of six million. This passenger growth will generate an additional 4,000 jobs on-site and a further 4,000 in the immediate supply chain.”

This is heady stuff. 8,000 new jobs would clearly be a substantial tonic to a regional economy and there’s no reason to doubt the sincerity of Mr Kehoe’s ambition. The runway extension is well under way, and will clearly open up the market for long-haul flights out of Birmingham.

But the journalistic cynic in me remains slightly sceptical. In Mr Kehoe’s own words, the 8,000 extra jobs forecast is based on an increase of six million passengers a year, quite a jump by anyone’s standards. And the airlines will still have to commit to new direct long-haul routes to the likes of LA or Beijing before anybody can board a plane.

So, however much Mr Kehoe and the Prime Minister talk up the 8,000 new jobs, and however much the rest of us would be delighted to be able to fly directly to California from Birmingham, there is a considerable amount of water to pass under the bridge before we’re all jetting off to Hollywood.

Part of the potential problem here is that politicians and business leaders are very good at talking the talk, but not always so assiduous at walking the walk. A few random examples of recent times spring to mind…

Eight years ago, in March 2006, plans were announced for Europe’s first theme park in the sky next to Millennium Point. The 650 ft high VerTiPlex was to be the first of its kind in Europe.

The £95 million development was hailed as a futuristic tourist attraction which would be Birmingham’s tallest building, with a selection of theme park rides and a restaurant at the top.

Developers forecast that the tower would attract one million visitors in the first 12 months. The only problem was it never happened, and the land on which it was to have stood was quietly put to other uses.

In November 2000, detailed plans were unveiled for a £100 million all-seater ‘Millennium Stadium’ on a site at the NEC, complete with sliding roof and room for 50,000 spectators.

Proposals drawn up by Birmingham construction specialists Wakemans and local architects Temple Cox Nicholls envisaged a huge sports arena capable of hosting indoor and outdoor international events, alongside a range of nightclubs and bars. But, just like the theme park in the sky, it never happened.

At least the V Building, an ‘iconic’ – what isn’t ‘iconic’ these days? – 50-floor building which was to become Britain’s tallest all-residential tower earmarked for the old ATV Studios site at Arena Central off Broad Street got as far as planning approval.

Developers Dandara said back in October 2007: “Scheduled for completion in 2013, this is a stunning scheme…soaring to over 150 metres…it sparkles and shines with reflective glass and warm grey metal.” Architect Eric Kuhne said: “The V Building will be a new skyline element defining Birmingham’s renaissance as a 21st century city, standing testimony to the vision and leadership of the private and public partnership in Birmingham.” Fine words, but the V Building, to this day, remains as elusive as the Dodo on Broad Street.

In March 2004, plans were unveiled for a new £80 million headquarters for Birmingham’s biggest business organisation, the Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber’s 40-year-old block was to be demolished and new headquarters on the corner of Harborne Road and Highfield Road built, providing 228,000 sq ft of ‘quality space,’ with 9,000 sq ft of restaurants and bars on the ground floor. It never happened – and the Chamber is still in its old home.

There is no direct link between the aforementioned projects that never came to pass and Birmingham Airport’s categoric promise of 8,000 extra jobs so enthusiastically endorsed by the Prime Minister.

Conversely, more than a little caution should habitually be exercised whenever we see a vote-hungry politician jumping on a business bandwagon with the promise of jam tomorrow. In some cases, tomorrow never comes…


Birmingham Airport’s website:

Work Starts on Birmingham Airport’s Runway Extension

28 November 2012

Work Begins on Birmingham Airport's Runway ExtensionLeft to right; Paul Kehoe, Birmingham Airport CEO, Lee Rushbrooke, Chief Executive – Colas, Des Steadman, MD Civil Engineering – VolkerFitzpatrick, Will Heynes, Development Director – Birmingham Airport and Chris Sedman, Project Director – VolkerFitzpatrick Colas.

Birmingham Airport has officially marked the start of its runway extension development, which will see the existing runway length increase to 3,003 metres and give aircraft unlimited range from the Midlands.

By extending the existing runway by 405 metres, aircraft will be able to take off from Birmingham with more fuel and fly direct to destinations currently out of reach, such as China, South America, South Africa and the West Coast of the USA.

The development, opening in early 2014, will generate spare long haul capacity in the region and help to take cars off the road, saving thousands of unnecessary surface journeys each year.

Paul Kehoe, Birmingham Airport’s CEO, explained, “The strong economic profile of the Midlands means that businesses are crying out for direct connectivity from their local airport so it makes no sense that 3.3 million passengers from the West Midlands last year flew from airports in the South East, adding congestion on the roads and at Heathrow, which is already 99.2% full.

“Redirecting this traffic back to the Midlands would release high value, long-haul capacity at London airports and boost the UK’s trading potential.

“We have plenty of spare capacity at Birmingham now. Our passenger numbers could double from the current nine million a year to eighteen million today, and the runway extension will allow us to increase beyond thirty six million in future years.

“Our passenger growth could create in excess of 243,000 jobs in the region according to a new report by the West Midlands Economic Forum.  Making greater use of the spare capacity at airports across the country will help generate sustainable long-term economic growth and help to rebalance the UK economy.”

With the runway extension opening up so many new long-haul route opportunities from Birmingham, the Airport is actively talking to existing and new airlines to explore new markets and routes from the Midlands. A new team of route development experts and a trade sales team have been employed by the company to ensure that the Airport is represented globally at key trade events and meetings, and it is working with local brands such as MG Motors and JLR to help develop relationships with key overseas markets.

The Company has also been lobbying the UK government to assign ‘National Airport’ status to key gateways to UK markets. For instance, Birmingham, as a National Airport, would be recognised as the gateway at the heart of UK manufacturing.

Such an endorsement would help the Airport to encourage new routes, by demonstrating Government’s commitment to the whole of the UK’s long-term aviation strategy.

On behalf of government, an independent commission has been tasked with reviewing all options for future UK airport capacity. The utilisation of spare capacity which is available immediately at regional airports such as Birmingham, is regarded by many not only as a pragmatic solution, but as a way of encouraging greater growth and resilience in the UK economy.

The runway extension will be wholly funded by the Airport Company at a cost of £33 million. In addition, the Airport is making a further investment of £13 million for the construction of a new air traffic control tower and radar system, which will be operational in early 2013, plus £9m on resurfacing the entire runway.   [The taxpayer had to fund much of the cost of the road alterations needed for the runway extension] .

A dedicated website about the runway extension scheme is available







Birmingham Airport publishes proposals for its future growth – including 2nd runway – to the Airports Commission

July 26, 2013      Birmingham Airport has made a submission to the Airports Commission on its future growth plans. It hopes to grow from 9m passengers a year now to 70m, (the size of Heathrow currently) while allegedly reducing the number of people affected by night noise. They are aware that the Commission is looking at the number affected by noise in the proposals submitted. Birmingham airport says its current runway extension will allow it to handle 27m passengers a year and it has the potential for a 2nd runway to be built some time after 2030 – if the demand required it – costing under £7 billion. The airport estimates that by using the new runway for night flights, it would remove over 13,000 people from the 57dB night noise contour. Birmingham airport say they have support from a large number of businesses in the area, and are well placed for business travellers who are keen to avoid Heathrow and get direct flights to Birmingham. “We have recommended to the commission a network of great long-haul airports to serve Britain’s great cities. Our proposals show that Birmingham Airport is in a position to sit at the heart of this network, serving a valuable catchment area and relieving pressure on congested airports in the South East.”      Click here to view full story…



Birmingham Airport unveils vision for growth, up to 70 million passengers per year, new business park etc

June 10, 2013      Birmingham Airport has unveiled long-term growth plans to challenge Heathrow’s supremacy and help to what they say will ‘rebalance the UK economy’. The plan would see Birmingham catering for 70m air passengers a year and 500,000 flights a year – both slightly more than Heathrow now. A business park for the Midland’s manufacturing sector is also proposed alongside the expanded airport site and has the backing of some business leaders and local councils. It, of course, predictably, promises huge numbers of jobs – no less than a quarter of a million. Paul Kehoe, the airport’s CEO, expects that in 20 years’ time British air travel will double – though there is no evidence for this, and it is utterly at variance with the advice of the UK’s Committee on Climate Change that UK air passengers could perhaps increase by 60% on 2005 levels by 2050. For the whole of the UK. Birmingham airport thinks transport infrastructure acts as an economic enabler, “a pathway to a virtuous cycle of growth”, and “each major regional economy cannot succeed without its own meaningful international gateway.” They believe “the UK economy is large enough to support at least four major ‘national’ airports – London, Midlands, North West, Scotland”.   Click here to view full story…


Birmingham Airport 400 metre runway extension work starts – to be ready spring 2014

November 29, 2012    Work has started to extend the runway at Birmingham Airport in a bid to compete for long-haul flights. It could be in use by spring 2014. Planning permission was granted in 2009 and in February final approval was given for the £40m project to extend the runway by 400 metres. Chief executive Paul Kehoe said the extension would allow Birmingham to compete with Manchester for flights to the US and the Far East and double capacity. Birmingham is currently England’s 2nd largest regional airport after Manchester, serving 9.6m passengers a year. David Learmount, from Flight International Magazine, said that although Birmingham could “theoretically” now become a “hub” airport and fly to destinations like China, it was “very unlikely to”.He said not enough passengers would fly into Birmingham wanting to go on to those sorts of destinations, unlike Heathrow – and it would benefit largely local “pleasure passengers” who would be able to choose from more holiday destinations. [So not increasing business, and increasing the tourism deficit].    Click here to view full story…