AIRPORT FLYING LOW
As bigwigs from regeneration quango Advantage West Midlands gather for their annual conference at the ICC today – attended by regional minister Ian Austin – will anyone dare poop the party by asking why it’s taking so long to deliver on a promise to help upgrade Birmingham Airport?
In February 2007, AWM pledged £25million towards improving transport infrastructure for the airport's planned runway extension – which was duly given the go-ahead by Solihull Council in April 2009.
So where’s the cheque? Two and a half years after being approved, it still hasn’t arrived – stymied, apparently, by “behind closed doors” discussions about what constitutes ‘state aid’.
These quibbles haven’t prevented the Department for Transport pumping £165 million into Manchester Airport for road improvements; nor have they prevented Glasgow Airport obtaining a £90million subsidy for a rail link.
A further £155million of taxpayers cash has also been promised to Stansted for improved train connections.
All, clearly, state aid - but unlike AWM's relatively piffling £25million, handed over without a hitch.
Perhaps this foot-dragging attitude shouldn’t come as a complete surprise. An article earlier this year in The Guardian showed AWM was the regeneration body with the lowest aviaton spend.
As a result, BIA’s runway extension won’t now be ready in time to exploit the 2012 Olympics.
With the future of RDA’s under threat from a future Tory government, there’s a real danger that the cash might not now be delivered at all.
Alternatively, by the time it arrived, the Airport’s shareholder’s might have lost faith in a project which will only yield profits in several years time.
They might decide to opt for short-haul destinations and short-term profits, while turning their backs on long haul destinations, with all the economic benefits to the region that could bring.
By now, the emphasis should be on ensuring the West Midlands secures a High Speed Rail link to the Airport; not chasing cash for a long overdue upgrade that simply allows it to play “catch up”.
As The Stirrer has noted, BIA is seeking to position itself as the next “London Airport”.
At this rate, with East Midlands airport having just secured permission to extend its runway, Birmingham will be struggling to keep up with the likes of Nottingham and Derby – never mind competing for customers with London
As delegates munch the complementary canapés at the ICC today, perhaps this is something else they'd like to chew over.
(When we contacted AWM they said: "The BIA runway extension and A45 relocation is a priority transport project that will not only enhance the region's economic performance but also add to its appeal as a business locatuon. We are currently working with BIA and partners to take the project forward.)
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