David Laws: How Heathrow expansion could help Leeds Bradford Airport - and Yorkshire - soar

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Leeds City Region is ambitious. It is the largest city region economy outside London and the South East, with a £70 billion Gross Value Added economy which is the largest in the Northern Powerhouse.

Leeds is also the UK’s third-largest city, home to over 25,000 businesses and its growing economy contributes £18bn to the overall Leeds City Region.

David Laws is in charge of Leeds Bradford Airport.

David Laws is in charge of Leeds Bradford Airport.

Bradford, the UK’s seventh-largest city with the youngest population in the UK continues to thrive, with the birth of 4,127 businesses in 2018, or 15 new start-ups every working day, and the identification of 48 high growth scale-ups; a jobs boom of 6,500 new roles.

These developments are exciting and point to the bright future our city region is heading towards as we prepare to leave the EU.

One of the key elements to the Leeds City Region’s continued growth is investment in its transport networks.

We need the right infrastructure in place to keep up with the pace of progress we see in our city.

That is why our local partners and we at Leeds Bradford Airport are working to carry out extensive improvement works in and around the airport.

Our revamped departure lounge, launched last year, now has new seating, shops, cafes and restaurants. It is giving our passengers a better airport experience and is just one example of the ambitious development plans we are delivering.

However, there is more to do to keep up with the ever-increasing demand on this vital gateway for Yorkshire and the UK.

The rest of the transport infrastructure around us, such as roads and railway, needs to make journeys to and from Leeds Bradford Airport shorter, quicker and more environmentally-friendly.

The Government has committed to integrating Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) with High Speed 2 to bring towns and cities in the North and Midlands closer together.

Transport for the North’s plans for NPR have a great deal of support and HS2 is making significant progress with 7,000 jobs supported by the project today rising to 30,000 jobs at peak construction.

Major infrastructure projects are never easy but these two projects are critical to ensuring that our train stations, airports, towns and cities are properly connected enabling people to get around much easier.

Separately, the High Court has been reviewing UK Government proposals for Heathrow expansion, which were backed by a majority of 296 in Parliament last year.

On a national level, expansion would provide a boost to the economy, increase the UK’s international connections and create tens of thousands of new jobs.

However, an expanded Heathrow is a good thing for us at Leeds Bradford Airport too and supports many of our own development plans.

Expansion could allow more people to travel from Leeds Bradford Airport to Heathrow and then on to other destinations around the world.

Currently, direct flights from Leeds Bradford Airport go to over 80 destinations but many more locations are reached when connecting via Heathrow.

More people than ever use Leeds Bradford Airport and we expect numbers of passengers to increase from current figures of four million annually to around seven million annually by 2030.

Expansion could mean more airlines departing Leeds Bradford Airport will be able to land their planes at Heathrow. This gives passengers greater choice.

We would also see cargo capacity at Heathrow almost double to three million tonnes a year after expansion, meaning regions such as Yorkshire and the Humber could increase exports of what we produce.

This is not only good for local businesses, it’s also good for Britain.

If we want to unlock the full potential of the North, we have to get behind big ambitious plans like this which help both the local and the national economy.

Many thanks for your continued support.

David Laws is chief executive of Leeds Bradford Airport