The chief executive of Manchester Airport has told a conference in the city that “The time is now” for Government to truly throw its weight behind the Northern Powerhouse vision, with joined-up transport at the heart of the plan.
Opening the two-day event, Ken O’Toole unveiled the next phase of its £1bn Transformation Programme and said the airport is pressing ahead with the investment in recognition of the strength of the Northern economy and the potential for hundreds of thousands of jobs to be created in the coming years.
But he urged Ministers to make a clear commitment to the scheme to show the Government is serious about creating a thriving and internationally competitive Northern Powerhouse.
Mr O’Toole said a clear case had been made for investment in infrastructure projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail (HS3), which has the potential to transform the Northern economy by dramatically improving connectivity between the North’s leading cities and Manchester Airport.
He said, “If the Northern Powerhouse is to be truly competitive on the global stage, it should be as easy as possible to travel from Hull to Hong Kong; Liverpool to Los Angeles and Sheffield to Singapore.
“Slashing journey times through investment in NPR could lead to the North securing direct flights to 20-30 key global markets, with millions more people in easy reach of Manchester Airport.
“It is connectivity like that that will maximize growth in sectors like life sciences, advanced manufacturing, technology and energy. It is connectivity like that that is key to delivering an Industrial Strategy that rebalances the UK economy.
“Northern Powerhouse Rail could give us that connectivity and drive transformational improvements in productivity and growth.”
Mr O’Toole said it was clear 2017 was going to be a “very important year for the North” in terms of the need for Government support.
He added: “We have the plan – the time is now for Government to commit to it, starting in just a few weeks’ time – with the Budget.”
Mr O’Toole also told delegates the the Government must seize the opportunity presented by the creation of a new national aviation policy this year to ensure that airports across the UK maximise their potential to link the UK to the world’s most important markets.
That will not be achieved unless road, rail and aviation policies are joined-up, he said, adding that strong international connectivity is key to the success of the Government’s new Industrial Strategy.
He added that, “We’ve made a massive private investment commitment, which clearly shows ours ambition for the Northern Powerhouse to succeed, and now we call upon Government to match that through delivering on key infrastructure schemes.”