Airport delays

Coalition risks being punished in the polls over airports policy

By: The Leader
Published: Saturday, July 27, 2013 - 17:18 GMT Jump to Comments

In a couple of week’s time you will be able to fly direct to Delhi from Birmingham International Airport. Delhi today, tomorrow the world...

The new Delhi-Birmingham service, by Air India, is a boon for the British business traveller. The flights, four a week, are direct and “overnight”. No need to break your journey at some hellish supper hub, like Dubai, a vast, soul eating, wallet draining, glittering neon plastic purgatory best avoided at all costs. No need to suffer from, and add to, the congested, time wasting, existential horror of Heathrow or Gatwick. Pass swiftly and quietly through BHX, climb aboard, eat/sleep/wash/eat, get off in Delhi.

Birmingham International is one hour five minutes from Euston station and just a short hop for millions upon millions of travellers in between and all around. “Go figure” as our American cousins are wont to say.

While you wait for this excellent adventure to become reality you could do worse than consider Birmingham Airport's latest submission to the Airport Commission (AC).

The AC and the Department for Transport (DfT) are making heavy weather of deciding to either turn Heathrow or Gatwick into another hellish super hub or back Boris Island - a brand new, soul-eating, wallet-draining, glittering, neon, plastic purgatory (GNPP) in the Thames estuary.

While a GNPP would stand as a fitting tribute to Boris Johnson’s ego, the arguments against Boris Island are so many and so clear The Leader cannot be bothered to rehearse them. That leaves Heathrow or Gatwick. Or does it?

As part of the “submission” a couple of hundred organisations have signed a letter to Sir Howard Davies, chair of the Airport Commission.

These organisations range from the large and influential like Handelsbank and Deloitte (Midlands) to the small but beautifully formed, like Small Heath School and The City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra.

Their letter starts....

Half a million businesses and six and a half million employees are located in Birmingham Airport’s long-haul catchment. This makes it the second largest business catchment in the UK.

But at the moment, 3 million business people travel to London airports from the Midlands each year to visit their customers overseas. These businesses incur cost and time penalties as a result of insufficient aviation connectivity. And the inability to travel easily to new markets is seriously damaging economic growth.

The letter concludes that what the UK needs is not a “one airport in the South East” strategy but a network of major airports supporting businesses across the UK.

This argument is supported by time, cost, environmental and a whole host of other arguments. Most of these arguments are simple and persuasive.

The government is encouraging the Commission and the DfT to take their time over these weighty issues. This is not because they want to be sure to get the right answer but because they don’t want to have to deal with the whole vexed question before the next election.

This selfish, politically motivated delay is making life and economic recovery even harder for the real businesses and the real people who are the beating hearts of England and who live and work beyond the walls of the Great Wen.

Birmingham Airport wants to do and initiate all sorts of things including building a second runway and be part of the planning of a whole raft of better transport infrastructure initiatives.

All of this needs careful consideration of course, but before this process can start to happen the government must make a policy decision. They must decide to back the national network of airports idea or spend our money making an even bigger mess of the South East of England than has already been made.

If the children and staff of Small Heath School can see the (plain, common) sense of a national solution to a national question the Commission, the DfT and the government should be able to do likewise. And the electorate should punish the coalition if they don’t get on with it now.

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