JLR chief hits out at "lack of priority" for Birmingham Airport

THE chief executive of Jaguar Land Rover has criticised the recommendations of the Airports Commission for failing to properly consider the case for regional airports.

At a conference in London arranged to discuss the Commission’s report into the future of UK aviation policy, Dr Ralf Speth said he was sick and tired of spending wasted hours commuting to London when there was an airport virtually next door to one of his plants in Solihull.

Dr Speth, who has to regularly travel to India to the base of parent company Tata Motors as well as other global commitments, said the Commission had failed to prioritise regional airports.

This is considered a crucial point as regional hubs are often closer to manufacturing bases and overseas buyers are often faced with an extra travel burden when they need to visit UK factories.

Dr Speth declined to say whether he favoured expansion at Heathrow, Gatwick or a new site to the east of London but was reported in The Daily Telegraph as saying he currently spends “too much time” on the M40 commuting to London to catch flights when Jaguar Land Rover has bases in the West Midlands – a portfolio that will shortly be expanded with the opening of the new £0.5bn engine plant at the i54 site near Wolverhampton.

The newspaper quoted him as saying “one disappointment from the interim report is the lack of priority given to the non-London locations”.

To try and overcome the problem in the past JLR has chartered executive jets from Birmingham Airport but there range is limited to European destinations.

The recommendations from the Airports Commission propose new runways at Heathrow and Gatwick for expanding UK airport capacity.

The three options put forward by the Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, include adding a third runway at Heathrow, lengthening an existing runway at Heathrow, and a new runway at Gatwick.

It has not proposed immediate expansion at Birmingham although it said there could be a case for considering it for a second runway by 2050.