The Black Country Chamber of Commerce aims to double the size of the Black Country economy by the end of 2023. £2.5 billion of this growth can come from transport improvements and Chair of the Chamber’s Transport Group Colin Leighfield responds to some recent good news about Birmingham Airport and sets out businesses’ demands for the coming year.
“The news about Birmingham Airport being the cheapest to reach and the additional flights for Turkish Airlines comes on top of the news that the airport has had a record year with a 5% increase in passengers to 10.2 million. This is really good news considering that our members are telling us Birmingham Airport would be their preferred choice airport for international flights.
“Our challenges for the airport are twofold: attracting airlines that are experiencing congestion in the South East and working with HS2 to deliver a world class interchange improving the accessibility of the airport to passengers experiencing grid lock as they try to use Heathrow or Gatwick. There appears to be a major opportunity for two of the region’s major transport infrastructure assets to create something extraordinary.
“The average travel time from London to Heathrow is advertised as an hour, even now it only takes 75 minutes from central London to Birmingham International. The HS2 connection will halve this and make Birmingham Airport at least as accessible from Central London as Heathrow and better than Gatwick. Although the airport is now hitting around 10 million passengers, it can grow to 36 million, providing capacity for London as well as providing the growth north of London that the government says is a reason for building HS2 in the first place.
“The wider economic benefit of Birmingham Airport to the region is well known, with the independent group, York Aviation, estimating last autumn that it already contributes £1.1 billion GVA per year and over 25,000 jobs to the West Midlands economy. All of the planning around HS2 needs to take the potential opportunities at Birmingham Airport into consideration and ensure that the two will function seamlessly together, thereby maximising the value they each bring to each other, to passengers, and ultimately to the West Midlands as a whole.
“We are working with the West Midlands Integrated Transport authority to find ways of relieving road congestion on our motorway network. Our members cannot but wonder why we cannot make better use of the M6 Toll. We know that if the 35,000 to 43,000 trucks that use the M6 every day were able to use the toll road to pass through the region we would save 6 kilometres of traffic jam and about £0.3 billion a year in productivity losses.
“Finally, our third transport demand for 2016 is related to Midlands Connect – building an East West gateway and a transport infrastructure to support economic growth. Many of our members completed a survey showing the routes we use the most to transport raw materials and finished goods, for example. We look forward to hearing more about plans to support economic growth across the Midlands as a whole – the newly christened ‘Midlands Engine’ which apparently will release £34 billion in economic growth.
“We will look to publish news giving businesses across the Black Country an update in these three areas and will be working closely with partners to ensure there are no delays. We have £14 billion more to add to the local economy before we hit our target. Every one of the 32,000 businesses in the Black Country deserves a transport infrastructure that is world class. All we ask is that decision makers respect this belief.”