Business and civic leaders today issue a joint message to Whitehall that the North can be home to “internationally significant centres of excellence” if it is equipped with high speed rail routes between its airports, helping connect the region to the world’s most important economies.
Appearing at an event at Manchester Airport today Lord Jim O’Neill, vice-chair of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, Andrew Cowan, Manchester Airport chief executive and councillor Susan Hinchcliffe, chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority and leader of Bradford Council will collectively say that a super-connected, productive and internationally competitive North would benefit the entire country.
The trio claim that key to this is the introduction of high speed railway networks across the North’s major cities, so-called Northern Powerhouse Rail, which is estimated to have the potential to create up to 20 new long haul routes.
A Green Paper on the UK’s aviation strategy is currently being prepared and many of the North’s airports, including Doncaster Sheffield Airport, Leeds Bradford Airport and Manchester Airport, are currently implementing or planning ambitious expansion projects.
Coun Hinchcliffe 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.”
Doncaster Sheffield Airport is seeking to convince Government to provide a stop for the airport on the East Coast Mainline as part of a wider push to create a vast aerotropolis, home to 5,400 jobs and worth nearly £2bn to the economy.
Manchester Airport opened a new pier last month, the first phase of a wider £1bn investment programme and Leeds Bradford Airport is seeking to create a parkway station and link road to help improve access.
However connections remain sluggish between cities and airports across the North, a situation Lord O’Neill wants to see addressed in Westminster.
He said: “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 message is delivered ahead of new data from banking giant NatWest which shows the North to be outperforming London in terms of the output of goods and services across the private sector in 29 out of the last 36 months.