Aviation strategy integral for Northern UK to ensure global position

The UK government must establish northern airports as the ‘beating heart’ of Northern Powerhouse as leaders stress the importance of global connectivity in the transport sector.

Aviation strategy integral for UK's North to ensure position on global stage

The UK government must establish northern airports as the ‘beating heart’ of the Northern Powerhouse economy, business and civic leaders have said. 

Figures from the forthcoming NatWest Northern Powerhouse PMI report, show the Northern Powerhouse is making good progress; outperforming London in 29 out of the previous 36 months. But more needs to be done.

Lord Jim O’Neill, Vice-Chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership; Andrew Cowan, Manchester Airport CEO; Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leader of Bradford Council; and Joanne Roney, CEO of Manchester City Council have said that creating a super-connected, productive and internationally-competitive Northern Powerhouse is not just important to the North itself, but is required to create a balanced and outward-facing UK.

They said that direct access to the world’s most important economies is critical to the creation of internationally-significant centres of excellence in fields like advanced manufacturing, technology, energy and life sciences in the North.

Ahead of the close of the consultation on the government’s aviation strategy green paper, an event takes place at Manchester Airport’s new pier, which opened on the 1 April 2019 and is the first phase of its wider £1 billion investment to be delivered. The project will transform the airport for the future. This includes by growing Terminal 2 by more than 150 per cent to become the airport’s primary terminal, helping unlock the potential of Manchester’s existing two runways.

This spare runway capacity, coupled with this investment, demonstrate that Manchester Airport, along with other gateways in the north, have the capability to play a leading role in rebalancing the economy and taking pressure away from London and the South East, in the short, medium and long term, leaders have said.

Securing direct links with high-growth economies – as opposed to via connections at domestic or overseas hubs – will increase trade, investment and educational links to and from the North. Evidence gathered following the launch of new services to the likes of China in recent years has shown that hundreds of million pounds of annual economic benefit can be generated as a result of direct connectivity being established.

Lord Jim O’Neill, Vice-Chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “Access to the world’s most important markets is key to the north realising its true potential. Across the Northern Powerhouse, we are seeing significant private-sector investment in airports, demonstrated nowhere better than here at Manchester Airport.

“That ambition should be matched by government support for maximising the potential of Northern airports through the Aviation Strategy process.

“We need major investment that will allow the North’s economic corridors to be better connected, attracting investment, creating jobs as well as attracting overseas organisations to discover a connected Northern Powerhouse through Manchester Airport, which with direct flights already to destinations like China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Ethiopia, is key.

“Due to transport barriers, it can take an hour and a half to get from Leeds to Newcastle for instance, which would be cut significantly under Northern Powerhouse Rail.”

Key to maximising the potential of Manchester Airport, and in turn ensuring the benefits of international connectivity reach all parts of the North, is dramatically improved surface access, through transformative schemes like Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR).

NPR will radically reduce journey times between the UK’s third largest gateway and the North’s major cities, nearly trebling its public transport catchment area and helping attract up to 20 new long haul routes in the process.

Cllr Susan Hinchcliffe, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and Leader, Bradford Council, said: “Linking up the North’s airports, together with our rail and road connectivity, is the missing piece of the Northern Powerhouse jigsaw. That is why Lord O’Neill and fellow parliamentarians wrote to the Chancellor last week, seeking meaningful commitment to Northern Powerhouse Rail with a city centre station in Bradford to link to Manchester Airport, Hull and Sheffield as part of the £120 billion package of infrastructure investments in strategic and local transport schemes needed to deliver a once-in-200-year opportunity to rebalance the economy and narrow the North-South divide.”

Andrew Cowan, Manchester Airport CEO, said: “Manchester Airport is a national asset, providing the North with direct connectivity to more than 210 destinations around the world. This list includes nine of the UK’s 10 biggest export markets, our largest source markets for inward investment and international centres of excellence in the sectors the North has particular strength in.

“We are clear that Manchester Airport has the potential to play an even greater role in driving growth across the North and rebalancing the UK in the process. That is why we are investing more than £1 billion in transforming our facilities and laying the foundations for us to connect the North to even more international destinations.

“It is pleasing to see Manchester Airport’s national significance recognised in the Aviation 2050 Green Paper and we look forward to working with government, and our partners across the North, to identify and deliver the measures that will unlock our full potential for the benefit of the region, and the UK as a whole.”

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