Yorkshire's £3.2bn aerotropolis plans are '˜encouraging' and '˜innovative', says Department for Transport

Ambitious plans to turn a Yorkshire airport into a major international transport hub with its own East Coast Mainline railway station were given a boost last night after being praised by the Department for Transport.

Doncaster Sheffield Airport has published a masterplan document setting out plans to create an “aerotropolis” for the North that would generate 73,000 new jobs and hand a £3.2bn economic boost to the region over the next two decades.

In addition to boosting passenger capacity to more than 25 million a year from the current total of 1.2 million, airport bosses want to increase the annual volume of cargo it handles to 250,000 tonnes and host the construction of 8,500 new homes.

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Central to the expansion plan is to directly link the airport to London and Leeds with a newly-created railway station along the East Coast Mainline, a move it says will place close to nine million people, from the suburbs of the London northwards, within 90 minutes of the airport.

Within hours of the proposals being published in The Yorkshire Post yesterday, officials in Chris Grayling’s department described them as having the potential “to improve passenger benefits and maximise economic growth”.

A Department for Transport spokeswoman said: “We are investing billions of pounds in northern transport – the most for a generation – in order to delivered improved journeys for passengers, better connect communities and supporting economic growth right across the region.

“It is encouraging to see airports across the UK with ambitious proposals, such as Doncaster-Sheffield Airport’s innovative aerotropolis scheme, which have the potential to improve passenger benefits and maximise economic growth. We expect the airport to work closely with local communities to make sure any proposed scheme delivers the best outcome for the whole region.”

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

Airport chiefs say the new station could be operational by as soon as 2025 and would alleviate congestion around the capital by reducing the need to travel to Heathrow or Gatwick.

Seeking to take advantage of the airport’s 1,600-acre size, the masterplan lays out a vision for an aerotropolis development – tapping into the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, Doncaster’s logistics hub, a global air cargo campus, residential zones and a central plaza of retail outlets, restaurants and hotels.

The increase in cargo freight is something the masterplan says could be of huge benefit to the country, saying it “can facilitate major freight expansion supporting international trade at a crucial time in the country’s development post-Brexit”.

The upgrades have a £280m price tag, funded by a mixture of private and public money procured from regional and national government. It was announced this week that private companies have been invited by the Transport Secretary to propose new rail projects which will not need the Government’s funding.

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

Robert Hough, chairman of Peel Airports, said the proposals would help re-balance the nation’s economy and boost the Northern Powerhouse.

He told The Yorkshire Post this week: “The North is often portrayed as something that drags the nation down...I think it should be an enhancer, something that adds to the nation’s prosperity. This would be a real benefit in ensuring that happens.”

He adds: “It is not a question of what can be done to help the airport as an aim in itself, rather what can an East Coast Mainline link do to drive the airport and the economy of the region, the North and the nation.”