The London lobby has been accused of “stirring” up the Heathrow debate yet again – with no regard to a regional solution.
John Rider, West Midlands chairman of the Institute of Directors, urged the Government to remain resolute in opposing a third runway there, praising Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s continued opposition.
“The answer is at Birmingham and other regional airports and it is available now,” he said.
Mr Rider made his comments after Conservative MP Tim Yeo and chairman of the Commons Energy and Climate Change Select Committee questioned whether Prime Minister was a “man or a mouse” after refusing to back a third runway for Heathrow, claiming the project would “kick-start Britain’s sluggish economy”.
“Birmingham already has the spare capacity and it will soon have an extended runway capable of taking long haul flights from China and the Far East,” said Mr Rider.
“Greater utilisation of Birmingham Airport would help our region in so many ways and the UK is already well behind the likes of France and Germany in the number of Chinese visitors.
“The London-only fraternity are stirring it once more when the means of dealing with this problem are, in relative terms, on their doorstep. Travellers arriving at Birmingham can be in central London almost as quickly as it takes to struggle through clogged Heathrow and catch a train.”
Mr Rider added: “Airports are a crucial economic link to opportunities for exports and inward investment, and certainly we cannot afford to fall behind by not having enough capacity.
“But the capacity exists today if only people like Tim Yeo would take off their blinkers. They need to look over their shoulders and open their minds because north of Watford lies the way forward, not the whole solution but a real opportunity. We must get away from being so London-centric.
“I am all for kick-starting Britain’s sluggish economy but there are many ways of doing that – a go-ahead for HS2 high speed rail would be a much better option, one which would bring London and Birmingham even closer. Sorting the economy means opening ourselves up to the world, not just opening London to the world.”
He added that the regional case had been outlined fully in a Birmingham Airport report entitled ‘Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket: a challenge to aviation orthodoxy’ released in June.
It argued that a third runway at Heathrow would only meet seven per cent of additional passenger capacity needs by 2050 whereas the six largest regional airports could add 116 million people to the network in that time.
“Ministers need to read that report and reflect,” insisted Mr Rider.
Responding to Mr Yeo, Transport Secretary Justine Greening said the Government’s policy remained that more development at the London airport was “not a long term solution”.