Plans for an expanded Birmingham Airport which could create a quarter of a million jobs would be a 'game-changer' for the West Midlands economy, according to the Lib Dem transport spokesman in the European Parliament, Phil Bennion MEP.
The airport, supported by a coalition of business leaders, has published an ambitious 50 year vision for future development, using a transport infrastructure maximising the benefits of high speed rail and re-opened conventional railways.
West Midlands MEP Phil Bennion said: "I support the key features of this document and the strategic choice of Birmingham as opposed to Stansted or Manchester for future longhaul demand.
"This could be a game-changer for Birmingham and the regional economy in terms of new business and employment. The estimate of a quarter of a million new jobs in our region is credible - while the option is also the best one overall for the environment.
"This long term vision makes economic and geographical sense. Only expanding BIrmingham, at the centre of the country, will realise the full potential of high speed rail links to London and northwards and prevent millions of pointless and carbon intensive journeys from the regions to the south east for long haul flights.
"The current runway extension will provide spare capacity for 27 million passengers a year and the potential for second runway on land just to the east of the M42 would mean long term capacity would be far greater, more than enough to meet demand.
"HS2 and other important rail improvements such as reopening the Whitacre Link will mean Birmingham becomes the closest long haul airport to 19 million people. The 31 minute connection to the London underground at Old Oak Common will mean Birmingham Interchange will be as close to much of London as Gatwick or Heathrow is.
"It is also important to recognise the overall environmental benefits of this strategy, which will divert millions of short haul flights to HS2 or conventional trains and make millions of other connecting journeys to Heathrow unnecessary, which will save carbon emissions.
"As I said to the Minister Simon Burns in a meeting recently, if we are serious about green growth and serious about rebalancing the British economy away from the south east, the strategic choice of prioritising Birmingham is the best way forward, not just for our region but for the country."
The Airport’s long-term vision is a response to questions asked by the Airports Commission, which is examining the need for additional UK airport capacity and will recommend to Government how this can be met in the short, medium and long-term.
British air travel is predicted by some experts to double over the next 20 years, but adding another runway to Heathrow would add to connecting transport difficulties and require the demolition of thousands of homes.
A second runway at Birmingham to the east of the M42 could be built in the very long term future on land mostly occupied by a spoil heap. There are no plans to revive the rejected plan to put a second runway near Catherine de Barnes.
• In 2011, 3 million business trips were made from Birmingham Airport. Economic consultancy Capital Economics, has predicted that by 2032 the Airport could serve up to 18m business travellers, second only to Heathrow.
• Birmingham Airport’s catchment has the second biggest demand for business travel. It has 500,000 businesses in its catchment, second only to Heathrow at 600,000.
• The majority of these are high-value manufacturing companies that currently export goods valued at £25.1 billion each year to long-haul markets without direct air links.
• Three million business people from the Airport’s catchment travel to Heathrow each year, adding unsustainable pressure and clogging up the road and rail network.
• Over the next 20 years annual passenger numbers will increase by 220 million passengers and yet plans for an additional runway at Heathrow only offers additional capacity for 20 million passengers.