At the height of the speculation with regard to the cancellation of the second phase of HS2, Nick Barton, (chief executive of Birmingham Airport) wrote to the Prime Minister outlining why in his view the decision “would be a mistake”.

Here’s Nick’s letter from 26th September.

(October 2023)

Dear Prime Minister,

HS2 is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to bring rail connections between the UK’s three main cities into the 21st century. I fully appreciate the financial constraints under which you, and the country, are operating but I believe that opting for a shorter HS2, with Manchester and the North removed, would be a mistake. Indeed, it would short-change every generation to follow.

I must declare an interest. Birmingham Airport (BHX) stands to benefit directly from HS2’s southern leg from Birmingham to Old Oak Common, which, once complete, will see BHX become the journey-time equivalent of Zone 5 on the London Tube.

While a shuttle from West London-to-Birmingham would be important to BHX and the Midlands region, economists agree that only a full HS2, including Manchester, can achieve maximum returns for Britain’s economy, including your government’s much publicised “levelling up” promises in the Midlands and the North. Furthermore, the Midlands’ regional transport plans are predicated on the full delivery of HS2.

Similarly, at the southern end of the route, Old Oak Common is not designed to be a terminus station. By removing the Euston stretch, Old Oak Common’s trains-per-hour capacity is halved from 12 to six and the attractiveness and ease of travel to Birmingham is severely impacted. It will have a significant and detrimental impact on the economic growth plans for the airport and the wider region so ably championed by our Mayor, Andy Street.

Finally, as you know, potential investors require clarity and commitment from government. I believe that cancelling such a high-profile project at such a late stage will deter precisely the type of investors that are crucial to the future economic success of our region and country.

I would be delighted to discuss this with you in person at any time.

Yours sincerely,

Nick Barton
CEO of Birmingham Airport


Nick Barton took up the appointment of Chief Executive Officer at Birmingham Airport in January 2019, having joined the airport at an exciting time in its history following the announcement of the ambitious draft Master Plan. Although currently on hold due to the impact of COVID-19 on air travel, the airport’s long-term plans include upgrading and expanding capacity of the terminal operations, aircraft stands and support facilities, combined with achieving net zero by 2033.

Nick has a long track-record as a successful leader, with extensive experience in the airports sector. He was previously Chief Executive at London Luton Airport, Managing Director of London Stansted and CEO of Aberdeen International Airport and is also Deputy Chair of the Airport Operators Association (the national voice of the UK’s airport industry).