Manchester City Council

Fly Me to the Moon

Although I've spent a lot of time recently talking about railways ( HS2, Rail North ) and more generally Northern transport infrastructure (One North) of late, it's a while since I've blogged about airports. Later this afternoon I'm off to the Concorde hangar at Manchester Airport for a consultation event on UK runway capacity jointly organised by Runways UK and Core Cities UK. I'll be speaking on behalf of Core Cities after Sir Howard Davies, the chair of the commission set up by government to look at this often controversial issue. Cynics would say that the commission is simply a ploy to put off a decision until after the general election and then to allow the Conservatives to change their position to one of supporting a third runway at London Heathrow. Whatever the motivation in establishing the commission, it consists of serious and reputable people and it's work has to be taken seriously.

They've already made one eminently sensible recommendation - to reject the bonkers proposal for a 4/5 runway estuary super airport, a development which would require around £50b of investment just to get to it, never mind build it. However in other respects it does seem to have morphed into a London runway capacity enquiry, with the rest of the UK taking a back seat- if we're in the plane at all. Airports are important to local economies. Manchester Airport generates £1.5b of GVA per annum, 40,000 jobs, but also underpins other job-creating growth, not just in the city, but across the North. In our globalised constrained international connectivity undermines job-creating growth and so needs to be addressed.

A " Hub " airport is not the answer. Hubs hark back to the days of national carriers and we've not had one of those for a long-time but more importantly, unlike the Netherlands where Schipol can serve all of their major population centres, London airports do not serve the whole of the UK well and Heathrow in particular contributes to a lack of balance in the UK economy. Manchester and other major regional airports have spare runway capacity and we should be maximising the use of that by developing a network of strong, competitive airports around the country. Of the four million per annum passengers who currently trek from the North down to Heathrow, many could and should be served far closer to home.

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The blog of the leader of Manchester City Council, Councillor Richard Leese.

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