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UK group wants Bir'ham-India air link

A leading business organisation from West Midlands in Britain has called for direct flights from Birmingham to India and China to facilitate business and trade links.

india Updated: Mar 10, 2006 11:30 IST

A leading business organisation from West Midlands in Britain has called for direct flights from Birmingham to India and China to facilitate business and trade links with the major emerging economies.

John James, chairman of the Institute of Directors in the West Midlands, said it was important for the region's business to be able to access India and China directly, without going through London's Heathrow or Gatwick airports.

The organisation is also urging Birmingham airport management to put on hold any plans for a second runway and concentrate instead on increasing the length of the existing runway to facilitate direct flights.

"We know that the key growth economies in the first half of the 21st Century will be India and China and we must be able to reach them from the West Midlands without refuelling stops or the need for passengers to change flights," James told the Birmingham Post.

"Otherwise we will find ourselves in a global economic hinterland, a second rate region always outshone by the northwest via Manchester airport and the southeast via Heathrow and Gatwick.

"Time will tell how critical it will be for our businesses to be able to reach Indian and Chinese markets but I believe it to be one of the most crucial factors in whether the West Midlands achieves its economic potential or not in the next two decades," James sad.

According to James, discussions on the economic case for a second runway, which in any event was unlikely to be built within the next 20 years, were distracting and risked clouding the issue.

A longer runway was essential in order for the Birmingham International Airport to operate non-stop long haul flights to emerging markets in China and India, he said.

"The business community needs to get behind the airport board and support its bid to secure the long term future of air transport in the region," James said.

"What we need is planning approval for the main runway extension now and we support the seven district councils who have called for the work to be brought forward from 2015 to 2012 in time for the London Olympics."

First Published: Mar 10, 2006 11:30 IST