Pledges to improve connectivity as Manchester Airport hosts Transport Forum

  • Speakers from a variety of public transport providers and industry bodies in attendance at annual event
  • Transport Commissioner for Greater Manchester explains proposals for more closely integrated network across the city
  • MAG renews commitment to invest in better public transport connections to the airport through Sustainable Transport Fund

Industry leaders debated plans to shape the future of travel at Manchester Airport’s annual Transport Forum.

Speakers from Transport for Greater Manchester, Transport Focus and Mott MacDonald were among those outlining plans for improvements to the transport network across the North.

Held at the Manchester Airport Radisson Blu Hotel, guests heard from Greater Manchester’s Transport Commissioner, Vernon Everitt, on plans for the Bee Network – a fully-integrated network of bus, tram, train and active travel links for the wider city region.

Mr Everitt revealed artwork for proposed branded liveries that would be used across the network and explained the benefits of a more integrated approach – including better access to the airport for more than 20,000 people working on the site.

Highlighting that around 60 per cent of journeys undertaken in Greater Manchester are currently made by private vehicles, he said that “many of those journeys could be converted into public transport and active travel” with an improved network, adding that the “aspiration” was to move towards a 50-50 split between private car journeys and public transport journeys by 2040. He also outlined how bus franchising in the city, which will be implemented by 2025, will allow bus timetables to be more closely coordinated with tram and train schedules.

Other guest speakers included David Sidebottom, a director of independent watchdog Transport Focus, who outlined research into changes in commuters’ travel patterns post-pandemic, and Dharel Patel, Head of Environment and Sustainability for National Express UK, who discussed the untapped potential of coach travel as an affordable and more environmentally friendly alternative to private cars.

John Reavy, head of Mott MacDonald’s European Aviation team, talked through research and investment into electric aircraft, whilst Andrew Chadwick from the Connected Places Catapult, a government agency tasked with driving innovation, highlighted opportunities that this new technology would present to connect the UK’s regions with more frequent, energy-efficient flights.

Manchester Airport has been committed to holding an annual Transport Forum with industry partners since 2017, although these were unable to go ahead during the pandemic. The event seeks to foster a collaborative working partnership between all parties involved in connecting the airport with its staff and passengers across the city and wider region. At present, the airport is served by rail, tram, bus and coach services, but Manchester Airports Group is engaging with partners on potential improvements, including increasing the frequency of services and extending the hours of service schedules.

The event included a Q&A session with the invited speakers and also involved a ‘transport marketplace’, showcasing some of the work carried out by colleagues at the airport and business partners.

Speaking to delegates, Alistair Andrew, Planning Services Director at Manchester Airports Group, said: “We are pleased to be working with Transport for Greater Manchester, our neighbouring transport authorities and partners across the industry on identifying ways in which we can enhance and improve surface access to our airport.

“Many of our passengers and colleagues rely on public transport, and working together in collaborative settings like the Transport Forum, sharing new ideas and best practice, is a key part of driving service improvements.”

MAG also announced that it will be setting up a Surface Access Advisory Group which will provide guidance on encouraging sustainable travel to and from the airport, as well as compiling an annual report on surface access use. The airport will also provide an update soon on plans to invest its Sustainable Transport Fund in a series of key schemes that improve access to the hub.