By Dan Smith
Birmingham Airport bosses hope its new expansion plans will see it challenge London Heathrow for business and leisure travel.
The airport has teamed up with a coalition of business leaders and local councils to come up with the proposals which could result in more than 250,000 new jobs in the Midlands.
If they come to fruition, the plans will see 70 million more passengers each year and as many as 500,000 air transport movements from the expanded airport.
It would not be just the airport that is expanded as part of the coalition's "vision" which would support the development of a business park for the Midland's manufacturing sector alongside the expanded site, and one of Europe's biggest conference centres at the NEC.
In 2011, three million business trips were made from Birmingham Airport, and economic consultancy Capital Economics has predicted that by 2032 the airport could serve up to 18 million business travellers, second only to Heathrow. It is estimated a further three million people from the airport's catchment area currently travel to Heathrow for business flights every year.
Paul Kehoe, chief executive of Birmingham Airport, said: "Great cities like Birmingham deserve great airports. In 20 years' time British air travel will double and it is widely acknowledged that all the country's long-haul traffic cannot be routed through one airport in West London.
"Instead, we believe that the best thing for UK aviation is to create a network of long-haul national airports, each supporting the comparative economic advantages of that region to boost trade, foreign investment and tourism."
The airport serves a region which boasts half a million businesses with 6.5 million employees. The region is well-known for its high-value manufacturing sectors.
Bringing together air travel, rail and road will be central to the Birmingham Airport expansion plans, in what is being hailed as a "once in a generation opportunity" to meet the UK's aviation capacity needs.
The airport sits at the cross roads of the nation's road and rail system and will be right on the door step of the planned High Speed Two rail line.
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