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Posts Tagged ‘Birmingham Airport

HS2 and Birmingham Airport

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One of the HS2 project’s many oddities is the inclusion of a “Birmingham Interchange” parkway station at Middle Bickenhill, apparently as a result of lobbying by Birmingham Airport.

Birmingham Airport's John Morris holds a Westbourne 'Yes to High Speed Rail' placard at a photo-opp in Birmingham's Victoria Square, 2011

According to the Airport’s 2006 – 2012 Surface Access Strategy, “The high cost of rail investment make it unlikely that further significant investment by the Birmingham Airport Company, in either rail services or off-site rail facilities, would be justified“.

So the airport is not happy spending its own money on rail infrastructure, but is quite happy if someone else picks up the bill.

Birmingham Airport, surface access mode shares, 1996 to 2006

Birmingham Airport, surface access mode shares, 1996 to 2006

Written by beleben

April 8, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Birmingham Airport expansion

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Birmingham Airport is one of two large airports in the English Midlands, but is not regarded as a premier rank facility by international airlines, and most of its current capacity is unused. Rather than reduce its landing charges or improve its user friendliness, the Airport has commissioned a public relations campaign calling for a ‘balanced aviation debate‘, which seems to be aimed at getting the British government to force airlines to use it.

Before the airport was part-privatised in the 1990s, public funds paid for improved surface access (such as Birmingham International station, on the main Birmingham — London railway, opened in 1976) and a new passenger terminal (opened in 1984). This month (November 2012), construction work has started on an extension to the runway, to ‘open up the West Midlands to more long-haul flights’, the Birmingham Post reported.

Extending the existing runway by 405 metres to 3,003 metres by early 2014, means aircraft will be able to take off from Birmingham with more fuel and fly direct to destinations currently out of reach, such as China, South America, South Africa and the West Coast of the USA.
The planning application for the extension was granted by Solihull Council in 2009 and Section 106 Planning Conditions were agreed in 2010.

Airport chief executive Paul Kehoe said:

“We have plenty of spare capacity at Birmingham now. Our passenger numbers could double from the current nine million a year to 18 million today, and the runway extension will allow us to increase beyond 36 million in future years.

“Our passenger growth could create in excess of 243,000 jobs in the region according to a new report by the West Midlands Economic Forum.”

The runway extension scheme, which involves diverting the A45 Coventry Road, was drawn up after a plan to build a second runway was abandoned in 2007.

[BBC News, Sep 2007] Airport chiefs had originally said an extra runway would be needed to cater for a three-fold increase in passenger numbers to about 27m a year by 2030.

The airport has now said instead it wants to extend the existing runway and build a third passenger terminal.

It says with these extra services it would not have to re-consider having another runway until at least 2030.
The airport’s acting managing director Joe Kelly said the extra flights each year could be just as well catered for by the extension as they would be by a second runway.

The Airport company is part-funding the development, but it seems that it was unable or unwilling to obtain the full amount from the banking sector. So millions of pounds of public money are being put into the project by the government’s Regional Growth Fund, Birmingham city council, and transport authority Centro.

The Beleben blog cannot find any published business plan, or cost benefit analysis, for the runway development. Neither the Birmingham Airport masterplan, ”Towards 2030: Planning a sustainable future for air transport in the Midlands’ (produced five years ago) nor the West Midlands Economic Forum’s Stimulating Revival (Paul Forrest, September 2012) provides any insight.

BBC News reported that neither British Airways nor Virgin appear keen on using Birmingham’s runway extension to transfer any of their long-haul flights from London airports.

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.

One might have expected new central and local government investment to result in an increase in public equity in the airport, but the terms don’t seem to be in the public domain. Centro’s involvement is particularly aberrant, because its remit is supposed to be local transport in the West Midlands county. Diverting the A45 does not provide benefits for local transport users, so why their transport budget should be raided to pay for it, is beyond explanation.

Centro’s airport fixation can also be seen in its support for two separate future Midland Metro routes between Elmdon and central Birmingham. In October 2010, Midlands Business News reported Centro’s head of strategy, Alex Burrows, as saying that “Tax increment financing of schemes like the Birmingham City Centre to Birmingham Airport Rapid Transit plan will deliver connectivity between the city centre, Birmingham Business Park and Chelmsley Wood”. In August 2012, Mr Burrows stated that he was an advocate

for a brand new 4 runway Birmingham airport next to the proposed HS2 Birmingham Interchange station. The site will have fantastic road and rail links and is equidistant between the city centres of Birmingham and Coventry as well as being easily accessible to a huge population across the Midlands, Wales and beyond.

Written by beleben

November 30, 2012 at 2:58 pm

Kehoe surgery

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Birmingham Airport: 'I'd like to move it, move it' says Paul Kehoe (Business Birmingham video)A few weeks ago, transport secretary Justine Greening suggested moving ancient woods to make way for HS2. A tough one to beat on the bizarre-o-meter, but Birmingham Airport chief executive Paul Kehoe has risen to the challenge.

With no means having been found to move HS2 nearer to Birmingham Airport, Mr Kehoe now wants to move the airport nearer to HS2.

There seems to be two, not-insignificant, problems with relocating the airport’s terminal facilities.

  1. The cost, and who pays it.
  2. Finding the space needed in the desired location.

Birmingham Airport site, showing planned HS2 station

Written by beleben

June 8, 2012 at 8:32 am

Costs off the books

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The January 2012 version of HS2 Ltd’s Cost and Risk Model stated that

The capital construction cost of the phase one London to West Midlands infrastructure is estimated at between £15.4 billion and £17.3 billion, with a mean value of £16.3 billion. This includes construction risk and an additional £4.2 billion to cover additional risks in line with the HM Treasury guidance on adjusting for optimism bias. Our current estimate for the full Y network is around £32.7 billion, we will be developing a cost range in the next few months.

To calculate HS2 rolling stock capital costs and operating costs, assumptions are made regarding the train service specification used for phase one and then full Y network operations. The estimated HS2 rolling stock costs, including optimism bias, for the service levels currently assumed are £3 billion for phase one and for the full Y network (which includes the cost of phase one stock) £8.1 billion.

However, the prospective financial outlays recognised in the Cost and Risk Model, are only part of the costs of the scheme. There are other costs, which are (i) external to the HS2 project boundary, or (ii) not monetised at all.

An example of costs external to the HS2 scheme boundary, is the infrastructure required to support access to the Bickenhill high speed station (known as ‘Birmingham Interchange’). An extensive new road network would be needed, and Centro are also planning to extend the Midland Metro tramway to Bickenhill. The costs of taking the tramway out from the city centre are not known with precision, but a reasonable estimate is £500 million.

Birmingham Airport’s passenger terminal has already been moved once, at sustantial public expense, in the 1980s. But yesterday (6 June), the Birmingham Post reported that it would ‘have to be moved‘ again, to be closer to HS2 Bickenhill:

Birmingham Airport passenger terminals could be moved more than half a mile east to be closer to the planned HS2 interchange.

The airport’s runway and airside operations would remain where they are while handling operations – such as check-in, baggage handling and security – would move closer to Birmingham International station, according to chief executive Paul Kehoe.
“This could result in moving the airport one kilometre eastwards,” Mr Kehoe told delegates. “It may sound daft but it has to happen.”

Inconvenience and delays caused to non-users of HS2, during and after construction, are a good example of non-monetised costs. Many of these would fall on people in London — for example, pedestrians and motorists on the Euston Road — and travellers to and from London (the Euston station rebuild for Adonis/Steer high speed rail would take eight years).

The extent and duration of disruption to London Overground users, arising from the January 2012 version of HS2, is unknown. Yesterday (6 June) This is London reported that ministers have agreed to rethink plans for new high-speed trains to share tracks with commuter services in north London

after Boris Johnson warned they would cause chaos on the Overground, it emerged today.

Under the £33 billion HS2 project, trains were set to run from Birmingham to Europe by passing through a bottle-neck in Camden used by Overground services.

The Mayor feared this would hit “reliability and performance” on the commuter line and prevent future upgrades. He demanded changes by Transport Secretary Justine Greening.

Ministers have now agreed to look at alternatives as they push ahead with the project.

Written by beleben

June 7, 2012 at 10:32 am

London Birmingham Airport

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Andrew McNaughton suggests "London Birmingham Airport" and periurban sprawlAs I’ve said before, HS2 is all about London. So it’s no surprise to read that chief engineer of HS2 Ltd, Andrew McNaughton, has suggested that high speed rail would allow Birmingham Airport to rename itself “London-Birmingham”, because it would be ‘closer to central London, in journey time, than either Stansted or Gatwick’.

What was a little surprising was the lack of enthusiasm for renaming from John Morris, the Airport’s head of government and industry affairs, who said:

Why on earth would we do that?

Because Mr Morris and his cohorts are continually trying to position Elmdon as London’s third airport, it would seem entirely logical for him to support renaming as Prof McNaughton suggested.

It’s important to emphasise that chief engineer McNaughton is *not* a mad professor, not at all. So perhaps Mr Morris should stop being so stuck-in-the-mud and self-contradictory, and follow Prof McNaughton’s ideas. After all, Prof McNaughton told Centro, Solihull and Birmingham councils where the high speed track and stations would go in their area. And they accepted it without a whimper. So impressed were Birmingham council with the Prof’s ideas, they immediately tore up their entire Eastside redevelopment plan for him.

The Prof’s views seem well aligned with the government’s bonfire of planning regulations. At the Irail 2012 rail conference in Derby, he predicted that:

Birmingham airport and nearby National Exhibition Centre area would become the heart of a new city following the construction of the planned Birmingham Interchange station, which will serve the HS2 line.

So ‘invest in HS2, get periurban sprawl for free’. Or perhaps, not for free.

Written by beleben

March 23, 2012 at 10:34 pm

Quadrophrenia midlandia

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There is a kind of reality distortion field that permeates infrastructure planning in Britain. In this fifth dimension, ‘visionaries’ and lobbyists put forward ideas such as

Another manifestation of reality distortion fieldism is the scheme to four-track the Birmingham to Coventry railway. Unlike much of the West Coast Main Line, the Stafford – Birmingham – Rugby line is only twin-track (i.e., one track for each direction). South of Birmingham, omnistation (stopping) trains are constrained by the need to accommodate longer distance freight and passenger services, resulting in sub-optimal timetabling.

In February 2011, Centro stated that four-tracking on the Birmingham to Coventry route was needed ‘in addition‘ to high speed rail, and their Rail Development Plan proposed a second pair of tracks between Proof House Junction (east of New Street station) and Birmingham Airport.

Birmingham Coventry railway, four-tracking proposed by Centro

Four-tracking from Beechwood tunnel (between Tile Hill and Berkswell) to Stechford at a cost of £900 million was proposed in Atkins’ Rail Package 2 ‘alternative’ to HS2. Before it dropped its support for high speed rail, the Green Party also favoured four-tracking the line, and its use by HS2 trains serving the West Midlands.

Maps based on Open Street Map (

The West Midlands is an area where cost-effective and relatively straightforward rail schemes – such as the Benson Road and Camp Hill chords – have been held up for years, because of lack of municipal support. So the eccentric Coventry four tracking concept, with its much bigger price tag and environmental impact, is unlikely to get anywhere.

I don’t see how anyone could make a case for spending £900-plus million to enable more stopping trains to Adderley Park, Lea Hall, Hampton-in-Arden (etc). The numbers don’t come anywhere close to stacking up. The best value approach would entail improving bus services to these places, and perhaps closing Adderley Park altogether.

Written by beleben

December 29, 2011 at 2:14 pm

Unsustainability advisor

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The storyBirmingham business leaders are hopeful that the city’s airport will be one of the major winners when a new draft policy on aviation policy is published next March, according to Midlands Business News.

Birmingham Chamber of Commerce Group (BCCG), together with its independent transport policy body, the West Midlands Business Transport Group, have demanded that Birmingham Airport is made a priority when the policy is announced.

The Chamber is pushing the airport’s case as it meets all the criteria demanded by the aviation policy, which is meant to provide the framework for a sustainable strategy which will last the UK for decades to come.

Ross Gurdin, policy advisor at BCCG, said that since Heathrow had been refused permission to build a third runway, Birmingham Airport had emerged as a strong contender to fill any gap in demand.

I’m not sure what the airport’s “case” is, or what the “criteria demanded by the aviation policy” are. But I do know that in January 2009, the Department for Transport

set a target to reduce emissions from UK aviation below 2005 levels by 2050. The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) provided advice on the prospects for achieving that target in December 2009, and we are now taking forward a programme of work to develop costed policy options for delivering the 2050 target and will set out our plans in due course.

I don’t see how tripling flights from Birmingham Airport fits with that target, or indeed any sensible transport policy. As a rule, airports should serve their hinterlands. Birmingham Airport should be oriented towards serving travel to and from the West Midlands, not places 200 kilometres or more away. So I wouldn’t trust Mr Gurdin’s ‘advice’.

Written by beleben

October 28, 2011 at 1:35 pm

HS2 and Heathrow, part 2

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The British government’s plans for linking Heathrow into high speed rail are informed by huge vested interests, and fixated with the notion that a high speed link should draw in more traffic to an already overloaded airport. Not my words, but those of a Birmingham Airport press release, ‘Mawhinney Report Misses the Point‘, dated 22 July 2010.

Birmingham Airport expresses mixed opinions over the report by Lord Mawhinney into High Speed Rail Links to Heathrow, whilst noting that Lord Mawhinney has not unequivocally recommended such a link.

Unfortunately, the report seems fixated with the notion that a High Speed link should draw in more traffic to Heathrow, rather than distribute the excessive demand elsewhere. Whilst this may be good news for BAA shareholders, it may not be such good news for regional economies.

The point of High Speed Rail in the UK is not to benefit one already-overloaded Airport in the South East, or indeed be seen solely in an aviation context. HS2 must have an equitable effect for the Country as a whole, and generate opportunity for more jobs and prosperity in the regions. The Mawhinney report, presumably informed by huge vested interest, thus compounds the ‘Heathrow Myth’.

The biggest myth is the erroneous assumption that Heathrow has to continue to be the UK’s ‘only Hub Airport’. Of course, Heathrow is a hub for British Airways but that’s about it. Other forward-looking Countries (for example, Germany) have chosen to spread aviation demand across a number of major airports, and often to link those Airports and other key centres with excellent surface access, sometimes including High Speed Rail.

Here’s the background. Before the May 2010 general election, the Conservative party was very keen on bringing Heathrow to the high speed rail centre-stage, seemingly viewing HS2 as a sort of substitute for a third runway. The January 2010 Bow Group report ‘The Right Track: Delivering the Conservatives’ Vision for High Speed Rail‘ had stated that “A successful national high speed rail network should directly connect all of Britain’s major airports”.

After the election, as part of the coalition government’s review of the HS2 plans inherited from Labour, Brian Mawhinney examined HS2 access to Heathrow, and to the Channel tunnel line (HS1). His report effectively recommended the Labour party policy of having an interchange on the HS2 line, well away from the airport, meaning that high speed rail passengers would have to change to a connecting conventional train to access Heathrow. Mawhinney recommended that a high speed rail link into the airport itself should only be considered for a larger national high speed rail system (the Y network).

On 2 December 2010, a BAA press release announced the appointment of David Begg as a non-executive director of BAA, which operates Heathrow Airport.

In March 2011, Mr Begg founded the Campaign for High Speed Rail (Biz4HS2) to mobilise business support for the government’s HS2 scheme. One of the companies voicing support for Biz4HS2 was none other than Birmingham Airport, whose Head of Government and Industry Affairs, John Morris, was featured prominently in its June 2011 photocall in Victoria Square.

Parkway predicament

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On the rather long list of “what’s wrong with Adonis/Steer high speed rail”, parkway stations would surely deserve a top ten position. In the West Midlands, with the phase one London – Birmingham scheme, about half of the people boarding and alighting high speed trains would be using the out-of-town Bickenhill interchange station (says HS2 Ltd). And in the larger Y-shaped network following on from phase one, it’s likely there would be several parkways, for example in the East Midlands, and South Yorkshire.

The reason HS2 Ltd favours out-of-town parkways, is ‘buildability’. Because captive services on the Y-shaped network would be operated with quasi-Berne gauge trains, extensive alterations would be necessary for them to use existing city centre stations such as Manchester Piccadilly, Sheffield Midland, or Leeds City. For the phase one scheme in Birmingham, HS2 would be provided with a new dead-end station at Curzon Street, separate from other rail traffic, served by a branch line from the ‘trunk line’ at Coleshill. But it’s hard to see how ‘HS2 branch lines’ could be the norm for serving cities around the network.

So the need for ‘through stations, with long platforms’ is likely to dictate the use of out of town locations. But devising satisfactory connections for such mega-stations is likely to prove extremely difficult, if not impossible. Access for private cars could be established – with enough money thrown at  car parking and entrance roads – but satisfactory public transport is a much tougher problem. For the Bickenhill interchange station, HS2 Ltd assumes the automobile as the normal means of access, and the design shows a five-storey car park for up to 7000 vehicles (along with the need for extensive remodelling to the road network). But even a 7000 vehicle car park seems mismatched to the HS2 capacity (up to 1100 passengers per train, up to 18 trains per direction per hour).

Remote from the locations that they purport to serve, it’s highly likely that the access time to and from HS2 parkways would wipe out any savings from the on-train component of the journey.

Bickenhill HS2 'interchange', aerial view
The aerial view artist’s impression of the Bickenhill interchange shows further problems in the concept. The walk from the extremities of the station car park, to the train door, could be several hundred metres. For people using the link to/from Birmingham International station and the airport, there is an obvious capacity disparity between the ‘people mover’ and the 1100-seat HS2 trains, leading to delays and dispersal problems.

Vanity over utility

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On a visit to the Midlands to promote HS2 to the ‘business community’, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond was questioned by a reporter from the Express and Star. Mr Hammond told the newspaper that Black Country and Staffordshire residents should not expect extra local investment on the back of HS2:

“I don’t operate in a world where people only support a piece of national infrastructure if there’s something in it for them.”

HS2 has been promoted on the basis that it (i) produces time savings for travellers between London and the West Midlands, and that (ii) these time savings have a high economic value. But because HS2 would end at a dead-end station on the edge of Birmingham city centre (at Curzon Street), there is no provision for any HS2 services to serve the Black Country – whose population is larger than that of Birmingham itself.

At present, the Pendolino services between London Euston and Birmingham New Street generally take around 82 minutes (though some take less) – compared with 49 minutes expected from a future HS2 between London Euston and Birmingham Curzon Street. So for there to be a net time saving with HS2, any penalty for accessing or leaving Curzon Street must not exceed 33 minutes.

Over shorter distances (the norm in Britain), normal speed (“classic”) point-to-point trains have the capability to equal or better high speed rail in convenience. This capability also applies to journey times, as is well illustrated by the case of Wolverhampton and Sandwell’s Pendolino services to and from London. From these towns, like many other places in the West Midlands, there is no benefit from HS2, because the extra access time (to or from the high speed station) wipes out the nominal 33 minute saving. Accessing HS2 would involve a change of train, and indeed a change of station (in Birmingham or Bickenhill), followed by a wait for the next connecting service.

HS2 is not so much about speeding up journeys between London and ‘the West Midlands’, as it is about speeding up journeys between London and ‘points within an isochrone surrounding Curzon Street’. But these issues are sidestepped in Centro’s brochure “How HS2 will transform the West Midlands: the Black Country“, and its map doesn’t even show the Black Country at all. The brochure concentrates on the notion that HS2 benefits the Black Country by ‘freeing up capacity on the local rail network’, enabling more conventional services to run. It lists ‘increased services’ to and from various West Midlands towns, and various public transport improvements, including electrification of some local lines.

Whatever. Philip Hammond has now clarified that there is no intention of funding local transport improvements on the back of HS2. And

  • the only West Midlands railway where HS2 would ‘free up’ capacity is the Birmingham – Coventry – Rugby line, as it’s part of the WCML loop used by trains to London
  • but the usefulness of HS2 for decongesting the Birmingham to Coventry line is unclear, with Centro indicating that they want that line enlarged to four tracks regardless.

The local service upgrades proposed in Centro’s brochure are conjectural, not part of (or dependent upon) the HS2 project, and not included in HS2 costings. If councillors on the West Midlands Independent Transport Authority were unaware that funding for metropolitan transport improvements was in competition for funds with HS2, Mr Hammond has now sent a clear message.

Centro brochure 'How HS2 will transform the West Midlands: The Black Country'
The Black Country doesn’t rate a mention on the map used by Centro to illustrate how HS2 benefits the Black Country

In its brochure, Centro seem to have abandoned the pretence that the Curzon Street terminus could offer good connections with “classic” (conventional) rail services. Instead, Centro emphasise Bickenhill HS2 station as ‘the preferred interchange’, with passengers using a people mover to get to and from the classic/WCML station at Birmingham International. But, as with Curzon Street, Bickenhill HS2 is extremely unsatisfactory as an interchange point, with HS2 Ltd assuming that access to it would be mainly by car, not transit. As for the overall interchange time between Birmingham International and Bickenhill HS2, that doesn’t seem to be modelled in any public documents.