By Oliver Clark
Secretary of State for Transport, Philip Hammond, claims that the UK’s regional airports must play a greater “complimentary role” to Heathrow in the future to help ensure that the London gateway retains its global hub status.
Hammond, talking to Airport World at the official opening of Birmingham International Airport’s new integrated terminal, admitted that maintaining Heathrow’s “international competitiveness” was a priority of the UK government, despite its decision to scrap plans for a third runway.
“London has a huge market which makes Heathrow a viable, sustainable hub,” said Hammond. “The growth of regional airports is not going to be to the detriment of the London airports, it should be complimentary.
"We are very determined not to lose the international competitiveness of Heathrow as a hub airport.”
In an indication of what the government could be planning in its review of UK air transport policy announced in March, Hammond said as demand for air travel is set to continue, projects such as High Speed Two would help ease the congestion in the South East, while there would be increased scope for regional airports to “provide a lot of that capacity”.
Birmingham International Airport CEO, Paul Kehoe, believes that it is inevitable that Heathrow will lose traffic to the regions as it reaches its capacity and the UK’s other airports are developed.
“I think Heathrow will lose traffic when its capacity is full and that’s the opportunity for us. Birmingham is increasingly being acknowledged as a strategic national asset, which should form part of an integrated transport system.
“We have invested nearly £100 million (€115 million) in new facilities over the last few years and are set to invest a further £100 in the next decade.
“We have created a stunning retail and food and beverage offering, opened a larger security search area and provided an expanded and redeveloped arrivals and outward facility.
The €14.8 million project to merge the airport’s two terminals into a single facility was unveiled today (May 13), and is part of a wider €114 million redevelopment of the airport.
Another key project of the upgrade is a 400m expansion of the airport’s runway to allow it to handle more widebody flights and consequently direct services to China, South East Asia, the west coast of America and South Africa.
Kehoe is confident that the new improvements would entice airlines to add services to Birmingham and claimed that Air India, which once served the gateway, “will come back”.
Meanwhile, the airport will also benefit from a new high-speed link between London and Birmingham, High Speed Two, which will cut journey times between the cities to 35 minutes.