High Speed Rail - Transport Committee Contents

Written evidence from Birmingham Airport (HSR 184)


1.  This is an independent response from Birmingham Airport to the Transport Select Committee's Enquiry into the Strategic Case for High Speed Rail. It should be read in connection with a submission provided by the Airport Operators Association (AOA).

2.  The AOA is the trade association that represents the interests of many UK airports. Membership comprises some 70 airport companies, representing the nation's international and major regional airports in addition to many serving community, business and general aviation.

3.  The AOA has made a submission to the Select Committee.

4.  It is understandable that an organisation such as AOA, which represents geographically disparate Airports, each within their own zone of economic activity, has to find a fair compromise between its members when making submissions to enquiries which could influence fundamental travel patterns, and hence profitability, of its members.

5.  Birmingham Airport is providing this submission as a supplement to, and not replacement of, the submission made by the AOA.

6.  Where no comment has been made to the contrary, the Committee should assume that the views of Birmingham Airport are aligned with those of the Airport Operator's Association.

7.  This document seeks to outline areas where are differences in opinion, interpretation, or indeed strategic emphasis.

8.  Our starting point is that UK Plc must not be wedded to one mode of transport. Just as rail is not the complete answer, neither is road—or air. Each mode should be used to best advantage—whether domestically or in creating vital International links with commerce.

9.  Transport links are the lifeblood of UK Plc; they are enablers of wealth and commerce. They should be integrated and "seamless", to make travelling and switch between modes, stress-free. Scarce resources should be used to best advantage.

10.  It is hoped that by providing an alternative vision, Birmingham Airport will assist the Select Committee in examining options from a national perspective.


London's other Airport?
Maybe—but Birmingham also has an important regional role to play.

11.  The Airport launched its current Airport Master Plan "Towards 2030: Planning a Sustainable Future for Air Transport in the Midlands" in November 2007. The Master Plan sets out a framework for the sustainable development of Birmingham Airport up to 2030. It illustrates how the Airport intends to meet the regional demand for air travel over the plan period of 23 years.

12.  Sitting beside the Master Plan is the Airport Surface Access Strategy entitled "Moving Together" (see the Surface Access Strategy section for more details).

13.  The Airport's Master Plan is a response to the 2003 Government White Paper "The Future of Air Transport",[446] which projected the demand for aviation growth across the UK up until the year 2030. The strategic advantages of Birmingham Airport with its proximity to motorways and the rail network are recognised in the White Paper.

14.  The Airport Company recognises that changes in Government Policy towards aviation in the South East, together with proposals for HS2 (neither of which are reflected in the Master Plan or Surface Access Strategy) could have a fundamental effect on its customer base in future years. However, with the current runway infrastructure, Birmingham has the capacity to expand beyond the projections set out in the Master Plan.

15.  Birmingham Airport's site hosts over 140 businesses, and supports over 6,000 people. The Airport has a positive effect on the regional economy, by acting as an International Gateway.

16.  Birmingham Airport hosts over 40 Airlines, and serves over a 100 direct destinations with hundreds more by connecting flights. It is very capable and can even accommodate A380-the World's biggest Airliner.

17.  By 2014 a Runway Extension will provide more direct long-haul capability where it is needed—and will make Birmingham as capable as any other Western European Airport.

18.  In May 2011, the Secretary of State for Transport opened the "new airport"—which has the capacity to take another nine million passengers immediately. The Airport's Master Plan envisages this figure rising to 27 million by 2030, and it is a matter of record that over 30 million passengers per annum can be catered for off a single runway.

19.  Thus between now and the 2030s, it is reasonable to conclude that Birmingham Airport at least the same capacity of that which would have been provided by a third, short runway at Heathrow. At best, Birmingham Airport is probably only realising about a third of its potential as a transport node.

20.  This provides a tremendous opportunity for those planning and integrating National Infrastructure.


21.  Birmingham has the best road and rail connectivity of any UK Airport and it is a winning combination; however to maximise use of a scarce national resource, it will be essential to maintain and improve such connectivity in the future.

22.  Road connectivity is good and will benefit from upgrading in future years; it is recognised this is outside of the scope of the current enquiry.

23.  The current West Coast Rail Franchise, which offers links to London, is reaching capacity. Journey times between London and Birmingham are only six minutes shorter than they were in the 1970s.[447]

24.  A typical journey from Birmingham International to Euston takes 70 minutes; the airport has suggested that the next franchisee might offer a "headline" time of 59 minutes.[448]

25.  Rail Links to Derby, Sheffield, East Midlands and the Northwest are often slow and uncompetitive when compared to road travel.

26.  Longer term, HS2 has the ability to mitigate all of these issues; either by releasing capacity on the "classic" network, or by providing direct services with attractive journey times.


27.  Birmingham Interchange—located at or very close to Birmingham Airport and the National Exhibition Centre would provide additional connectivity. New direct rail services from across the region could link with High Speed Rail as well as international flights.

28.  The Passenger Transport Authority, CENTRO, recognises the opportunities afforded by creating such a node.

29.  Birmingham Interchange also provides a channel for the South East to access additional aviation capacity (Birmingham Airport has significant spare capacity and thus is a valuable resource to be exploited).

30.  Without Birmingham Interchange, there is a risk of long-term economic decline across one of the most successful parts of the Midlands. There is also a risk of unintended consequences. Our Airport Master Plan to 2030 envisages the creation of thousands of jobs—both at the Airport and in the wider region. The same situation applies at the adjacent National Exhibition Centre. It is essential that modern transport links are maintained, and that best use is made of Strategic National Assets.

31.  Our stance on High Speed Rail is that it complements Air Travel. Whilst we are very supportive of a station in Central Birmingham we believe that there are very compelling reasons why the Birmingham Interchange should also be adopted.

32.  Birmingham Interchange would provide connectivity over and above that provided in central Birmingham. For instance, North Warwickshire and Coventry would be economic beneficiaries (not least through the continued employment of many of their population at the Airport/NEC), as well as those located around the Midlands "Motorway Box", for whom travel to Birmingham City Centre would be problematic not just to themselves but to the capability of the A38 infrastructure and to City-Centre parking.

33.  A recent survey by the British Chambers of Commerce suggested that 44% of Businesses in the West Midlands would use Central Birmingham, whilst 56% would use a station at or near the Airport/NEC.

34.  Birmingham Interchange, located at or very close to Birmingham Airport and the National Exhibition Centre (where there is already a "main line" station), would not only provide additional connectivity to the wider region, and link with an existing transport hub; it would also "plug in" to the M42 corridor—acknowledged as a major economic driver of the region[449] and the only significant location in the Midlands which outperforms National GVA. It would also provide a route to additional aviation capacity.


35.  Surface access—including High Speed Rail—will be key to the development of Birmingham Airport and the economic regeneration of the Midlands. The current published Airport Surface Access Strategy[450] does not reflect HS2 or any changes in Government Policy, and it is being reviewed in the light of emerging policy.

36.  The Airport is not wedded to one mode of transport. Just as rail is not a panacea, neither is road—or air. Each mode should be used to best advantage. The alternative to HS2 would appear to be very significant increases in the UK Motorway network, with consequent land take (perhaps three times that of HS2).

37.  Adding additional tracks alongside the existing Victorian Infrastructure would destroy the heart of many towns that owe their existence or expansion to the railways. It would also be expensive and as the £9 billion upgrade of the West Coast route demonstrated, it might not deliver the intended outcomes. The Airport doubts whether this approach would deliver a truly High-Speed, High-Capacity railway.

38.  The above approach would not release capacity to permit the development of new routes (for example, those that would use part of the current WCML for an element of their journey)—for Example, Kenilworth to Birmingham International, Leicester to Stratford-upon-Avon.

39.  Further upgrade to the existing infrastructure will, in any case, be required to ease existing "bottlenecks and pinch-points". This is already happening.

40.  With regard to reported cost, the Airport's view is that Crossrail is spending about £2 billion per year on a commuter railway through central London and its suburbs. As that £17 billion + project is completed, we would envisage that £2 billion per annum would "roll forward" annually to High Speed Rail projects.

41.  It would appear equitable that investment also be made outside of London, which reportedly has a disproportionately subsidised transport infrastructure, compared to the rest of the UK.


42.  The Government has already suggested that Airports in the South East should be "better not bigger".[451] Without pre-empting the outcome of the forthcoming review, it is reasonable to assume that at least part of it might seek to make better use of existing resources. Existing resources, such as Birmingham, can be unlocked—so long as they are integrated into a wider transport network, and provided that awareness is increased.


43.  Many commentators seem to consider HS2's primary aviation role to be as a feeder to Heathrow Airport. This appears anomalous to the "Better not Bigger" agenda, and counter to plans to rebalance the UK economy.

44.  However, the use of HS2, to match aviation demand with spare capacity, could bring very significant regional economic benefits and would be in line with the Government's desire to rebalance the economy.

45.  Whilst Birmingham provides an early opportunity to integrate HSR and Aviation, there are other airports—with significant spare capacity—capable of being linked to the High Speed Rail network.

46.  It is possible that some Airports will remain silent on the issue of High-Speed Rail, as they have to remain sensitive to their relationships with their Airline customers.

47.  As High Speed Rail develops, it should be regarded as complementary to Aviation, and not necessarily as a replacement. High Speed Rail should be used to connect a network of International Gateways—offering choice to consumers and airlines, and providing balanced economic growth.


48.  It is important that London's largest Airport have a link to the High-Speed network. However, it is unclear which terminal would be served by High Speed Rail.

49.  Depending on which terminal was selected, it is possible that changing from HS2 to an enhanced "shuttle" service from Old Oak Common would offer the quickest alternative for people travelling to the majority of the terminals at Heathrow. In other words, the optimal solution (both in cost and journey times) may not be a direct link using HS2 trains.

50.  Any link to Heathrow should not be to the detriment of everyone travelling from the North to London and beyond. If every HS2 train were to be diverted via Heathrow (with, reportedly, nine minutes extra journey time or more), one suspects that this would have a very significant negative effect on productivity and on the overall business case for HS2.


51.  Awareness increases through a variety of methods; these include end-to-end ticketing (what is the difference between flying New York-Heathrow and catching a train to London, and Flying New York-Birmingham and catching a train to London?) the possibility of a "congestion charge" for very busy airports (leading to the creation of secondary markets elsewhere), and of course adequate marketing activity.

52.  High Speed Rail and Aviation should be integrated for the purpose of journey planning and ticketing. This already happens in Germany, with a very forward-looking partnership between Lufthansa and Deutsche Bahn. Airline-style tickets are issued, which include some legs by rail, and others by air.[452]

53.  Integration of UK domestic rail into Aviation's Global Distribution systems would be a pre-requisite of changing travel behaviours, and bringing more choice on price and journey time to the market. For High-Speed rail to be properly integrated into a Global Transport system, through ticketing will be essential.

54.  Successful integration of air and rail also depends upon a number of critical factors including interchange location, ease of interchange, service frequency, baggage management and wider connectivity. Air passengers will not be tempted onto HSR unless it is capable of providing efficient and seamless airport connections. This includes seamless security, baggage handling, border control and other associated security issues.

55.  Such a process should begin now, with the existing domestic rail system. However, it is not clear who act as catalyst and lead such a project or whether it would work on a voluntary basis, as it would almost certainly meet resistance in some areas. This is a matter for Government to decide.


56.  Changing transport behaviours and travel patterns, through policy and effective marketing of choice, can start a confidence-building exercise that will demonstrate to stakeholders, a microcosm of what HS2 might bring.

57.  In Birmingham Airport's case, a greater willingness to engage on the part of the West Coast franchisee (perhaps to include through ticketing and joint marketing), could lead to mutual and measurable benefits.

58.  A greater willingness of the Control Authorities to work on remote "check in" and clearance might simplify procedures on arrival and contribute to the "seamless experience".

59.  With hard data available, the Airport and its shareholders may be in a better position to evaluate the benefits of investing in a future joint Airport/HS2 Terminal at the HS2 Station.

60.  It is important to trial new systems and working practices within the existing system, to create an "evidence base" for potential future investment.


61.  HSR investment should be additional to, not at the expense of, other much-needed-investment in rail (for example, the required measures to address congestion at the "Northern Hub", which affects the whole northern region, or the "four tracking" of the similarly-congested Birmingham to Coventry Corridor).


62.  Birmingham Airport supports High Speed 2 and the creation of a High-Speed Rail network for Great Britain. However, transport modes are not mutually exclusive, and they must be better integrated if they are to be fit for purpose in the mid 21st Century. Customers should have a seamless journey experience, and should be able to easily access through journey information—including times and prices.

63.  It is important that the customer-service attributes (including through ticketing, security/customs clearance etc) for the High-Speed Network are trialled and any issues resolved, within the current rail structure.

64.  The new InterCity West Coast Franchise (to be let in 2012, and currently being negotiated) would appear to be an excellent test bed for any proposals. It is suggested that there is still opportunity to build some of the above concepts into that franchise.

65.  Birmingham Airport would be willing to work with airlines and with the franchise operator on issues of mutual interest, provided that there is Government support and encouragement for the process.

May 2011

446   http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/+/http://www.dft.gov.uk/about/strategy/whitepapers/ Back

447   ???????? Back

448   Great Britain Timetable 1974, table 66. Journey time 89-91 minutes every half hour. 2011 Virgin Trains Timetable-84-85 minutes, every 20 minutes. Back

449   See Realising the Potential of the M42 Corridor, Final Report to Advantage West Midlands, most pages but page 17 for GVA.

450   http://www.birminghamairport.co.uk/meta/about-us/planning-and-development/airport-surface-access-strategy.aspx Back

451   http://nds.coi.gov.uk/content/detail.aspx?NewsAreaId=2&ReleaseID=413870&SubjectId=2 Back

452   http://www.lufthansa.com/us/en/AIRail-just-like-flying Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 8 November 2011