LOCAL business leaders have challenged claims in a new report by the Conservative Free Enterprise Group that suggests additional runways at Heathrow are the only viable solution to the UK’s aviation capacity shortage.
Jerry Blackett, chief executive of the Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group (BCCG), has asked in a letter to the report’s author why Heathrow claims it needs to expand to benefit UK businesses and yet uses 60 per cent of its capacity to serve tourists flying to destinations such as Orlando and Malaga.
The Chamber highlighted the fact that a third runway at Heathrow would offer only seven per cent of the capacity needed by 2050 while the UK’s six largest regional airports could add 50 per cent.
Mr Blackett has also refuted claims that people in China want to fly to the capital not Birmingham.
Mr Blackett said: “The West Midlands is one of the only regions that has been bucking national trends and consistently reducing unemployment and growing our economy. We have done this thanks to the vigour with which our manufacturers have been exporting.
“Since 2003 Birmingham has attracted more Chinese investment projects than any other UK city outside London. The Chinese are focused on investing in manufacturing and research and design – which the West Midlands has in abundance.
“China has recently overtaken Germany as the West Midlands’ second largest trading partner and we have done all of this without a direct flight to China. MG Motor’s MD William Wang has publicly backed a Birmingham-Shanghai route and we are confident that once Birmingham Airport’s runway is extended we will see a huge boom in flights between the West Midlands and China.”
Mr Blackett pointed out that when the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao visited the UK in 2011 he flew to Birmingham because of the Longbridge success of MG, owned by Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation.
He added: “The West Midlands has a lot to offer China and is the largest recipient of Chinese investment outside London. In China our heritage and reputation for high quality manufacturing is well understood and greatly valued.”