Mark Casci: Plan to expand Doncaster Sheffield Airport is a winner for UK plc

Doncaster Sheffield Airport
Doncaster Sheffield Airport
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The announcement last week that Doncaster Sheffield Airport was seeking to position itself at the heart of UK aviation was warmly received around the region.

The airport’s bosses have long talked up both its location and capacity to expand but those advantages have now been crystallised into a fully-costed masterplan which sees it targeting 25 million passengers, from the suburbs of North London to the borders of Scotland, create tens of thousands of jobs and establish an ‘aerotropolis’ akin to those seen around major US airports.

Artists impression of an East Coast mainline station at Doncaster Sheffield Airport

Artists impression of an East Coast mainline station at Doncaster Sheffield Airport

Key to making all of this happen is the establishment of an East Coast Mainline station at the airport, linking it with the capital and placing those millions of potential passengers within 90 minutes journey time of the airport.

The plan relies upon funding coming from a variety of public and private money and carries a pricetag of £280m.

In an era when football clubs spend around 50 per cent of this on one footballer it is easy to lose sight of the large pricetag.

However, when you consider that the masterplan document the airport has drawn up estimates an economic impact of an additional £3.2bn for the nation’s coffers it suddenly looks like one of the finest returns on money in our nation’s history.

A crowded Terminal 2 of Heathrow Airport.

A crowded Terminal 2 of Heathrow Airport.

However, if I may, I would like to look beyond the EBITDA headline figures and instead focus on what this could mean for the north and the UK.

Heathrow and Gatwick handle a considerable amount of this nation’s air passengers yet are located within 45 miles of each other (a distance which I, a man hurtling towards middle age, can traverse fairly comfortably on a bike).

Easing the congestion around the capital’s two major airport seems to me to make a lot of sense for the UK as a whole.

If you look at a map of the country, Doncaster is located virtually in the centre of the nation, something that the logistics industry is willingly seeking to capitalise on.

The planned rail route to Doncaster Sheffield Airport

The planned rail route to Doncaster Sheffield Airport

I offer into evidence the colossal rise in the amount of investment into warehousing and distribution in that town in recent years.

Opening it up to that huge catchment area that a railway station would create would add up to a more contended passenger and mean business travel would become more productive for workers from Stevenage to South Shields.

It could also serve as a springboard to wider transport infrastructure investment, as Whitehall finally realise that an empowered and hyper-mobile north will massively serve the nation’s interests.

Yorkshire is ready to make this happen, and the plan needs to be backed at the highest level.