Northern leaders call for an ‘aviation strategy for the North’ to ensure its position on the global stage

  • The North outperforms London according to forthcoming NatWest Northern Powerhouse PMI (Purchase Managers Index) report

  • Government must establish Northern airports as ‘beating heart’ of the Northern Powerhouse

  • Northern leaders stress importance of global connectivity for delivering the Northern Powerhouse project

  • Businesses, universities and civic leaders attend event at Manchester Airport to call for government commitment

The government must establish Northern airports as the ‘beating heart’ of the Northern Powerhouse economy, business and civic leaders will say today [WEDS].

Figures from the forthcoming NatWest Northern Powerhouse PMI (Purchase Managers Index) report, show the Northern Powerhouse is making good progress, outperforming London in 29 out of the previous 36 months, but more still 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, will say at an event at Manchester Airport today that creating a super-connected, productive and internationally competitive Northern Powerhouse is not just important to the North itself, but sits at the heart of the desire to create a balanced and outward facing UK.

They will say 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, the event takes place at Manchester Airport’s new pier, which opened on 1st April and is the first phase of its wider £1bn investment to be delivered. The project will transform the airport for the future. This includes by growing Terminal Two by more than 150% 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, the leaders will say.

Securing direct links with high-growth economies – as opposed to via connections at domestic or overseas hubs – is what will do most to 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.

“The Purchase Managers Index shows that the ‘ManSheffLeedsPool’ corridor is thriving, but we need to do more to better connect the North East in particular which is not yet sharing in the benefits of agglomeration with the rest of the Northern Powerhouse.”

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 £120bn 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 £1bn 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.

“That includes through schemes like HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail, which will combine with our own investment to make the North one of the world’s most connected regions.”

Manchester’s long-haul catchment area places around 22 million people and 60% of all UK businesses within a two-hour drive time – it extends north through the Lake District into Scotland; east across Yorkshire and the North East; south to Birmingham and the Midlands; and west into Merseyside and Wales.