DONCASTER Sheffield Airport plans to rival Manchester and Stansted airports by opening a railway station to attract passengers from the overcrowded South East.
Bosses at the airport, which is based on the site of the former RAF Finningley, believe a new railway station could persuade many travellers from the South to fly from Doncaster Sheffield instead of Heathrow and Gatwick.
The planned new station would also help to speed up the development of Aero Centre Yorkshire around the airport, which is a large mixed use development that could create thousands of jobs.
The wide-ranging plans to develop Doncaster-Sheffield are included in a report – Vision for Transformational Growth –which has been published today.
The report states that a new airport terminal station at Doncaster Sheffield would be less than an hour and a half from London. The station could be created through a new rail spur between the airport and the East Coast mainline, or through a re-alignment of the mainline, the report said.
The report states: “The airport benefits from uncongested airspace, ensuring ease of operation, and thereby, can play a role in relieving congested South East airspace. “
The Peel Group – the airport’s owners – also owns most of the land required to build the facilities, enabling the proposals to be developed in a short timescale, the report said.
Steve Gill, the airport’s chief executive, said he wanted Doncaster Sheffield to become one of the smartest and greenest airports in Britain.
Mr Gill told The Yorkshire Post that the planned railway station would help to rebalance the North-South divide, and bring greater connectivity, inward investment and job creation.
He added: “The airport lies at the heart of a much wider site; a 1,600-acre site, an enviable land holding. We do see a much wider set of opportunities, not just to deliver passengers and cargo, but also education, business parks, community facilities, and logistics. There’s a much greater set of opportunities that we can pull together in one co-ordinated land holding.”
Mr Gill said the airport was looking for “recognition and support” for the planned railway station at a national and regional level.
“The TFN (Transport for the North) and Northern Powerhouse are looking for key projects to help re-balance the economic divide in the UK, and this is very much one of them,” he said.
Mr Gill said it was early days in terms of assessing the total cost of the railway station scheme, “but indicative assessments so far are looking at something like £100m to £150m for the re-alignment of the line, and creation of a station”.
He added: “There are a lot of stakeholders and partners who would have to come together and support this in the right way, but it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that it could be delivered in five to 10 years... This is of much wider benefit to the region.”
Mr Gill added: “It’s important to remember this isn’t just an airport station. This would be a station that would serve the south of Doncaster and the local community. It also becomes the catalyst for the delivery of a much wider set of opportunities and businesses, who would co-locate around this area.”
Mr Gill said the airport was looking to develop the plans for a new railway station in partnership with the public sector. He added: “It would create inward investment, it would create jobs, so one would hope that the backing from the public sector would reflect that.”
Mr Gill said that Doncaster Sheffield had the space to create an airport on the scale of Manchester and Stansted, which could welcome up to 25 million passengers per year. He added: “That, in its own right, could support up to 20,000 jobs.”
Around 1.3 million passengers a year currently use the airport.
Mr Gill said the airport had been talking to train companies and rail operators and they “see it as a positive solution to help with capacity in this area, so they have been very supportive so far.”
The airport is calling on the Government to designate Aero Centre Yorkshire, a mixed use development by the airport, as an Enterprise Zone. The airport’s report is supported by Doncaster Council, Sheffield City Region Combined Authority, and the Sheffield City Region LEP.
Doncaster Sheffield airport started commercial flights in 2005. When the airport was converted from the former RAF Finningley, all the airfield infrastructure was updated to make it easier for the airport to expand.
It has one of the longest runways outside of the South East, which means it can accommodate some of the largest aircraft, including the A380 SuperJumbo and the Antonov 225, the world’s largest cargo plane. The airport serves more than 40 destinations, with a mix of charter, low cost scheduled and freight operations.
The complex also includes the Aero Centre Yorkshire, which already accommodates more than 100 businesses.