The expansion of Birmingham International Airport should kick-start the revival of a Metro tram link to the city centre, councillors said.
Plans to run a Metro line to the airport and NEC, along with two other lines, have been shelved due to the expense and a lack of political will to push them through.
But now city officials have been urged to use the expansion of Birmingham International Airport runway, confirmed by Solihull Council’s planning committee on Monday, as a chance to re-ignite the scheme. The extension, likely to be completed in 2012, will allow more larger aeroplanes to land allowing more direct flights to China, India, North America and the Far East.
The issue was raised as members of Birmingham City Council’s regeneration scrutiny committee quizzed Advantage West Midlands chief executive Mike Laverty and Birmingham’s head of economic strategy Veronica Docherty on the likely benefits of the runway extension.
They were particularly keen to find out how best to ferry additional workers and travellers to and from the airport.
Coun Jerry Evans (Lib Dem, Sparkbrook), a member of the regeneration scrutiny committee, said: “We are talking about improving transport to the airport to get an increasing number of people to and from the airport and north Solihull.
“Surely the Metro would be the right way to go. They should scrap other Metro plans and make this a priority.”
He questioned why the Metro was no longer a priority for the region.
Mr Laverty said priority transport schemes such as rebuilding New Street Station and the airport expansion had funding in place and the unanimous support of the Government and local agencies.
Last year plans for three Metro routes, including the one from the city centre to the International Airport and NEC, appeared dead in the water due to their estimated £300 million price tag.
Mr Laverty had earlier informed the committee not to under estimate the importance of the runway extension to the regional economy.
According to a report to the committee, AWM believes the runway expansion will create an extra 2,040 jobs and £74 million income for the region by 2022.
“One of the region’s most important manufacturing companies Jaguar Land Rover is now foreign owned,” said Mr Laverty.
“It has a £7 billion turnover and exports to 160 different countries. Many of these cannot be reached with the current runway.
“The new owners are Tata from India, and many parts of India cannot even be reached from Birmingham Airport. The decision to allow the extension is a real signal of confidence in the region at time when we need to be as confident as we can.”
Coun Roger Harmer (Lib Dem, Acocks Green) suggested that with Birmingham International rail station only an hour and 20 minutes from London, AWM should be marketing further afield.
He said: “Birmingham International could be closer than Heathrow for people in Camden and Islington, let alone those in Milton Keynes.”