Belfast Telegraph

Call to back northern rail link to make north 'truly competitive'

The Government should commit to the Northern Powerhouse by investing in transport links, the chief executive of Manchester Airport says.

Ken O'Toole gave the opening speech at the UK Northern Powerhouse Conference in Manchester on Tuesday.

He called on Government ministers to make a commitment to the Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR), or HS3, scheme, which could improve connectivity between cities in the north and the 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 to 30 key global markets, with millions more people in easy reach of Manchester Airport.

"It is connectivity like that that will maximise 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."

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 said unlocking the potential of airports like Manchester was key to creating a "truly global Britain", especially in the 10 to15 years it will take to build a new runway at Heathrow.

He spoke as Manchester Airport unveiled the next phase of its £1bn transformation programme.

He added: "We know we are among the best airports in the world when it comes to the number of different destinations on offer, whether that be Boston, Beijing or Barcelona; Houston, Hong Kong or Hamburg.

"Our £1bn Transformation Programme is all about investing in the future, so we can continue to grow by securing more direct flight services in our role as the north's global gateway.

"It also about investing in our facilities and in the latest technology to provide passengers with best possible experience."