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By Laura Payne Wednesday 28 November 2012 Updated: 29/11 14:03
WORK has begun to extend the runway at Birmingham Airport.
The £33million development will allow the airport to operate flights to destinations currently out of reach such as China, South America and the west coast of the USA.
The extended runway, which will be increased by 405 metres to a total of 3,003 metres, is due to open in early 2014.
Airport bosses believe the development will take cars off the road as passengers who have previously travelled to airports in the south east for long haul flights will be able to choose to fly from Birmingham instead.
And they have been lobbying the government to assign national airport status to key gateways to UK markets and believe Birmingham could be recognised as the gateway at the heart of UK manufacturing.
The airport is also making a further investment of £13million for the construction of a new air traffic control tower and radar system, which will be in operation from early 2013, as well as £9million on resurfacing the entire runway.
Paul Kehoe, Birmingham Airport's CEO, said: "The strong economic profile of the Midlands means that businesses are crying out for direct connectivity from their local airport so it makes no sense that 3.3 million passengers from the West Midlands last year flew from airports in the south east, adding congestion on the roads and at Heathrow which is already 99.2 per cent full.
"Redirecting this traffic back to the Midlands would release high value, long-haul capacity at London airports and boost the UK's trading potential.
"We have plenty of spare capacity at Birmingham now. Our passenger numbers could double from the current nine million a year to eighteen million today and the runway extension will allow us to increase beyond thirty six million in future years."
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