Transport links are key to Northern Powerhouse success

Improving east-west transport links is the key to unlocking the North’s economic growth and it is time to get that investment started, a conference on the future of the Northern Powerhouse was told.

Powerhouse ConferenceTim Hawkins, corporate affairs director at Manchester Airports Group, stressed that better east-west connectivity was vital to driving the region’s economy forward.

He told a session on transport and infrastructure at the Northern Powerhouse International Conference in Manchester that better connectivity would create a greater catchment area for the airport and that would help it attract more long-haul flights.

And he added: “Being able to get from the north globally is so important to its future.” Speaking about improving east-west connectivity he said: “It is time to get that investment under way.”

Mr Hawkins also said the government needed to consider what Manchester Airport’s role could be in terms of its Brexit vision and its industrial and aviation strategies, as well as the Northern Powerhouse. He said: “There needs to be a strategic view about connectivity and how that can be provided.”

Graeme Mason, planning and corporate affairs director at Newcastle Airport, stressed that it also had its role to play in driving economic growth in the North and helping to attract inward investment to the North East of England.

He told delegates: “It is important to be able to have direct flights into the North East.” And he added: “The North East needs its own gateway airport.”

Andy Brown, operations director at Carillion Civil Engineering, said: “If the Northern Powerhouse is going to meet its potential the transport infrastructure connecting northern cities is key.

“Few would doubt that current transport links between the northern cities and particularly trans-Pennine are not good.”

David Brown, CEO of Transport for the North, said it was making progress on its journey to become a statutory body, giving it and the region a stronger voice. A “cohesive argument” for investment was being constructed, he added.

He said there was “real momentum” in creating a clear programme of future transport projects and priorities agreed across the North.

And he also pointed to areas where progress was being made, including the dualling of the A66 – one of the main routes linking the North West and the North East.

He added: “The priority is better rail links west to east, improved journey times and capacity.”

The session also heard of the great need to “dramatically improve” links between the Sheffield city region and Manchester.

Graeme Mason also highlighted plans to cut air passenger duty in Scotland, putting airports in the North at a disadvantage.

He said: “It is an important issue for Newcastle which is in the front line and for all the airports in the North of England.”

Thousands of people have attended the two day conference and exhibition at Manchester Central. It has brought together business leaders, world-leading experts and political heavyweights to help drive the success of the Northern Powerhouse project.