IT is one year since I took up the position of chief executive officer at Leeds Bradford Airport. There was one thing abundantly clear to me from the moment I entered this proud county and is still hugely relevant to this day– Yorkshire is a region with incredible potential.
As the creator of proper brews, parkin and Pulp – not to mention properly played cricket – the region is rightly proud of its world-famous produce. But there’s more to Yorkshire’s entrepreneurs than exporting cuppas, cakes and Common People. Yorkshire’s cutting-edge businesses and innovative exporters are full of ambition and ready to reach out to the world.
Every thriving region needs an extraordinary transport network, with an airport that has the capacity and capability to bring businesses closer to their customers. Our vision is for Leeds Bradford Airport to provide that hub.
A crucial part of that is ensuring that our airport is as well connected as possible. Yorkshire needs the roads, railways and public transport that helps passengers get to where they want to be, with more connections on faster, more comfortable journeys.
That’s not just to help Yorkshire’s business travellers and holiday-makers get to their destination faster than before, or to help tourists eager to see the glorious countryside of God’s Own County. It’s about making the day-to-day commutes significantly better.
Congestion, late trains and poor services aren’t just frustrating; they take a serious toll on productivity and prosperity.
We hear from the Government that £13bn is being invested into transport links across the North. We absolutely welcome that investment. There’s no doubt that our region has been short-changed for far too long, and it’s a real vote of confidence for our future.
However a longstanding challenge for the airport has been its poor surface access connectivity. I’m pleased to say productive and fruitful discussions are taking place with Leeds City Council, Network Rail, West Yorkshire Combined Authority and other stakeholders to deliver a parkway station for the airport.
But a station isn’t enough, we need a timetable that delivers real transformational change. Working alongside our partners, we are looking to deliver a frequent and far reaching service to complement that being proposed for Leeds City Station. This will involve both local commuter and high speed trains, providing improved and sustainable access to the airport.
I’m also passionate about making sure the airport delivers for the wider regional economy in jobs and apprenticeships for our young people. The LBA Economic Hub will deliver over 100,000 square metres of new manufacturing and office space incorporating precision engineering, light industrial and medium logistic uses. Located immediately adjacent to the airport, it will employ over 5,000 people making it the largest employment site in north Leeds.
Crucially, for the first time, the North now has the power to demand the infrastructure we need.
No one knows the challenges of travelling around Yorkshire better than we do. That’s why we believe the creation of Transport for the North gives us the ability to speak with one, unified voice.
It gives us the opportunity to push ahead with projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail – a series of dramatic improvements on the lines between Hull, Leeds, Liverpool and Manchester – as well as bringing in paperless, smart ticketing programmes.
And linking Northern Powerhouse Rail to HS2, as the Government envisages, will be a game-changer – creating a seamlessly-connected northern rail network with better journeys between our major cities and the rest of the UK.
That’s why Leeds Bradford Airport has real confidence in the future of Yorkshire. Real progress on our transport links is being made today, and is matched by a strong commitment to deliver even better journeys tomorrow, helping our region achieve its full potential.
I would like to thank the people of Yorkshire who have supported me so far on this journey. The more people use this airport the more successful we can be. Work continues to improve our route offering for both business and leisure services and we hope to have some exciting announcements in the near future. I, my staff and our owners are determined to create an airport Yorkshire can be proud of.
David Laws is chief executive of Leeds Bradford Airport.