Birmingham & Black Country

Birmingham Airport runway extension work starts

Work starting on the runway
Image caption Airport officials say the runway extension could be in use by spring 2014

Work has started to extend the runway at Birmingham Airport in a bid to compete for long-haul flights.

Planning permission was granted in 2009 and in February final approval was given for the £40m project to extend the runway by 400 metres.

Chief executive Paul Kehoe said the extension would allow Birmingham to compete with Manchester for flights to the US and the Far East.

The runway extension is also part of a wider plan to increase capacity.

Birmingham is currently England's second largest regional airport after Manchester, serving 9.6m passengers a year.

Airport bosses said an investment programme could allow it to double its capacity and increase the number of routes it serves.

They believe the runway extension could be in use by spring 2014.

The airport opened a new control tower in June, incorporating the latest technology, which managers hoped would help it attract airlines.

Paul Forrest, from the West Midlands Economic Forum, said having the runway extended would be "very significant" for the region's economy and could potentially boost regional growth by 3-4%.

'Really positive news'

He said: "Birmingham is much more competitive than many other airports.

"It's quicker to get from Birmingham International to Euston than it is to get from Heathrow to Euston on the Tube.

James Puxty, of the NEC Group whose base is next to the airport, said the runway extension was "really positive news" for the company.

However, he said work had to continue to improve the local transport infrastructure to make the airport development beneficial to the region.

British Airways and Virgin Airlines have said that even once the airport is able to take on the extra capacity, they will not consider moving any of their long-haul flights from Heathrow.

David Learmount, from Flight International Magazine, said that although Birmingham could "theoretically" - with its longer runway - become a "hub" airport and fly to destinations like China, it was "very unlikely to".

He said not enough passengers would fly into Birmingham wanting to go on to those sorts of destinations, unlike Heathrow.

Mr Learmount said the greatest benefit would be to local "pleasure passengers" who would be able to choose from more holiday destinations.

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