Transport Secretary admits Heathrow 3rd runway would be bad for Birmingham Airport
Chris Grayling, Transport Secretary, in announcing formal backing by the government for the 3rd Heathrow runway, has admitted that this will be bad for business at Birmingham Airport. He said Birmingham would face “greater competitive pressure” as a result of Heathrow having a 3rd runway. The line Grayling is taking, to try and reassure regional airports, is that the 3rd runway will encourage more domestic flights. However, he knows perfectly well that it is up to airlines, not airports or government, to determine which routes they fly – unless given hefty public subsidies to keep unprofitable routes in operation. His assurances to regional airports are all qualified by statements like Heathrow will try, government will support etc. Nothing concrete. But as Birmingham Airport is so close to Heathrow, there will not be domestic flights to Heathrow, and all that will happen is Heathrow takes passengers away from Birmingham, and long haul destinations will increasingly be served exclusively by Heathrow. The government is well aware of this harm an expanded Heathrow will do to long haul services from other UK airports.
Transport Secretary Chris Grayling admits Heathrow third runway could be bad for Birmingham Airport
Birmingham will face ‘greater competitive pressure’ as a result of the decision to expand Heathrow, says Chris Grayling
By Jonathan Walker
5 JUN 2018
Building a third runway at Heathrow Airport could be bad for business at Birmingham International Airport, Transport secretary Chris Grayling has admitted.
He said Birmingham would face “greater competitive pressure” as a result of the decision to expand Heathrow.
And the Government came under fire from Black Country MP Ian Austin (Lab Dudley North), who asked Mr Grayling: “Why could they not have shown a bit more imagination and expanded Birmingham Airport, got behind the regions?”
Mr Grayling told MPs that the Government was backing a third runway at Heathrow. And he said the project would benefit the whole country, because it will allow the creation of more domestic flights linking Heathrow with regional airports.
But Birmingham Airport is unlikely to benefit in the same way, because it is too close to Heathrow to make flights between the two airports viable.
And Mr Grayling admitted that the announcement could actually make it harder for Birmingham Airport to win customers.
He told the House of Commons: “There is no doubt that the location of Birmingham Airport will, if we expand Heathrow Airport, mean that it faces a greater competitive pressure than many of our other airports But I do not believe that means that Birmingham Airport will cease to be a success story.
“It is already a great asset to the West Midlands. It will continue to be so. “It has attracted a number of important international routes in recent times.” “I have no doubt that will continue.”
Mr Austin said the Government should be helping Birmingham Airport expand. He told the Transport Secretary: “For all the talk of balanced economic growth and boosting the regions, it’s the same old story with the bulk of the investment, the spending, the jobs and the benefits always all in London and the south east.”
He said the Government should back expansion at “Biirmingham Airport, actually the best connected airport in the country, on the motorway network and with HS2.”
He added: “And it would mean that we get our fair share of the jobs, the investment and the benefits in the Midlands.”
Similar concerns were raised by Richard Burden, Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield, who asked Mr Grayling: “Would he agree with me that places like Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, East Midlands for freight, are international gateways in their own right, not simply regional airports as he described them?”
Proposals for a third runway at Heathrow were approved at a meeting of ministers on the Cabinet’s economic sub-committee.
MPs will be given a vote on the scheme by early July.
Conservatives will be told to back a third runway. But Foreign Secretary Johnson, who once vowed to “lie down in front of the bulldozers” at the airport, is expected to miss the vote – and in a relaxation of Cabinet collective responsibility rules, he will be allowed to speak out against the plan.
He won’t be the only Tory rebel. However, the Government is likely to win the vote easily, because it will have the support of SNP MPs who back Heathrow expansion.
Labour’s position is unclear. The party does not appear to oppose Heathrow expansion, and Shadow transport secretary Andy McDonald said Labour will consider the proposed Heathrow expansion against four tests.
He told MPs: “Expansion should only happen if it can effectively deliver on the capacity demands, if noise and air quality issues are fully addressed, if the UK’s climate change obligations are met in their entirety, and that growth across the country is supported.
“We owe it to future generations to get all of these factors absolutely right, but if the correct balance isn’t found then the law courts will quite rightly intervene.”
However, Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell said on Twitter: “I remain implacably opposed to expansion at Heathrow and after listening to the transport minister, Chris Grayling, today I am even more convinced that this would be a costly, environmental and social disaster that will never be built.”