By Howard Wheeldon
Independent aerospace analyst
Plans by Edinburgh Airport to spend £150m on the international hub’s terminal buildings will be very much welcomed by regular users of this otherwise well located Scottish airport.
But can the same be said of the Birmingham Airport?
Recently a controversial plans valued at an estimated £7bn was announced, based on the requirement of expanding airport passenger handling capacity from a current annual 9 million passengers to 70 million by 2030.
Is the location the right one?
I am not against regional airport expansion and development.
But whether Britain’s now seventh largest airport (which happens through a mistake of history to be located on what I will personally regard as a bad site for an airport) can justify such high levels of expansion at the existing airport location must surely be open to much doubt.
With the main London-Euston rail line at Birmingham Airport’s eastern boundary, the main A-45 trunk road running along part of the western boundary, substantial housing to the north and ‘green belt’ to the west, the Birmingham Airport location is completely hemmed in.
Birmingham Airport authorities are currently engaged extending the main runway by 405 metres in length to 3,003 metres. This investment is more than justified in my view.
Whatever happens in the future in terms of long term development, we can be certain that it will be years yet before plans on the scale submitted to the Davies Commission would be affordable, let alone accepted as desirable and maybe eventually achievable.
Do we need a 2nd runway?
If Birmingham Airport has got this far so brilliantly should it now be thinking of further expansion that includes, when and if demand is proven, the building of an additional runway by 2030?
A few years ago I guess that I would have suggested that further developing Birmingham Airport on the existing site at Elmdon would have been ridiculous given the road, rail and housing restrictions.
But today I suspect that I could at least learn to cope with a limited amount of further site expansion provided of course that existing transport infrastructure could be enticed into tunnels.
Increase in passenger capacity
As a regional airport, Birmingham Air port has a great future.
But to imagine that this airport will handle almost eight times the number of current passengers carried per year, and maybe three times the number of flights, is to me cloud cuckoo land stuff that smacks not only of arrogance and empire building but also of wasting precious resource.
Yes, Birmingham does have a big place in air transportation but it can be no competitor airport to those in London and the South East.
Neither in my view can or should it be allowed to attempt to make itself into the size of Manchester airport for no good reason or indeed, to out compete other regional airports such as Coventry and East Midlands.
Brum Transport had earlier interviewed Howard Wheeldon after a consultation with local residents was held in Coleshill.
The liveblog from Coleshill consultation has more details.