Birmingham Airport runway extension work starts
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.
It has taken more than 20 years of planning but finally work has started on Birmingham's longer runway.
The airport says it is needed because it wants to offer routes further afield, but it can only do that if airlines decide to fly there.
Last week both British Airways and Virgin said they had no plans to use Birmingham.
So who would want to come?
The airport maintains that it is selling the benefits of flying into the West Midlands to airlines all over the world and not just those based here.
A connection to high speed rail is planned and if HS2 does get built, the airport would be just 39 minutes from London.
That's faster by rail than to Gatwick and Stansted airports.
Airport bosses remain confident that a combination of packed south-east airports and the economic vitality of this region will persuade airlines to come once the runway extension is complete.
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.
Manchester & Birmingham airports
- Manchester opened: June 1938
- Birmingham opened: May 1939
- Manchester: Two runways
- Birmingham: One runway
- Manchester: 22 million passengers a year
- Birmingham: 9.6 million passengers a year
- Manchester: Three terminals
- Birmingham: One terminal
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.