Manchester Airport ‘could add £16bn a year to economy’

A new report from engineering consultant Arup says that 50 new direct long-haul routes from Manchester Airport could be unlocked by integrating investment in new transport infrastructure.

The report says such a move would see the jobs supported by Manchester Airport more than double from 80,000 to 165,000 and its contribution to the UK economy grow to £16.3 billion.

Regional political and business leaders have backed the report, saying that Manchester Airport  should be at the heart of their plans to transform the North of England’s connectivity and drive productivity and growth.

The report said UK government measures needed include investment in a new high speed rail network in the North of England, with Manchester Airport at its heart.

The political and business leaders have urged the next UK government to place Manchester Airport at the heart of a modern, integrated transport network in the North and maximise its role in “rebalancing the UK economy.”

The calls were made after the report revealed what the full economic potential of the airport would be if the right conditions were in place to unlock “transformational growth” across the North.

Produced by Arup, it states that between now and 2050, the Northern gateway could secure direct flights to 50 new cities including Sydney, Tokyo, Montreal, Mumbai, Riyadh, San Francisco and Cape Town, driving passenger volumes to as high as 60 million a year.

The report says those links would drive significant increases in exports, inward investment, tourism and cultural exchange for the North, growing Manchester Airport’s annual economic impact on the North to £16.3 billion and leading to support for more than 80,000 more jobs.

The report spells out the opportunity for Ministers to create a “supportive policy environment” that enables both the airport and the North of England economy as a whole to flourish.

The centrepiece of that would be the delivery of a high-speed rail network that transforms journey times between Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Bradford and the airport.

That would build on Manchester Airports Group’s own £1.3 billion investment in the transformation of its facilities, which is helping unlock the potential of its existing two runways.

The report says this would all “create a transformational growth scenario” that by 2050 would also lead to:

  • Gross value added (GVA) impact from the airport in the North tripling from £5.7bn to £16.3bn
  •  Potential for more than 50 new long-haul routes
  • Around 25 new short-haul routes
  • Employment for over 165,000 people compared to 80,000 people today. That is equivalent to the population of Harrogate
  • More than 260,000 businesses would be within 90 minutes of the airport – compared to 70,000 today
  • Potential for the airport to serve up to 60m passengers each year compared to 27m today
  • The creation of 6,500 jobs and £930m of economic value through the creation of a Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF) pipeline and production capability that serves Manchester Airport and the UK as a whole

Manchester Airports Group (MAG) owns and operates Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands Airports and is owned by a combination of public and private shareholders, including Manchester City Council (35.5%), IFM Global Infrastructure Fund (35.5%) and the nine other Greater Manchester local authorities (29%).

MAG CEO Ken O’Toole said: “Manchester Airport is well-established as the UK’s global gateway in the North, connecting the region to an ever-increasing range of destinations such as Beijing, Singapore, Hong Kong, New York, Houston, Toronto and across the Middle East.

“We know this connectivity delivers billions of pounds of economic value to the North by driving trade, investment and tourism and, spurred by our own £1.3bn investment in new terminal facilities and infrastructure the Airport, we will continue to grow and support growth across the region in the years to come.

“A key question for the next UK government is how to not only maximise the potential of Manchester Airport, but also ensure all parts of the North benefit to the fullest extent possible.

“Any government serious about rebalancing the country would want all major cities and towns to have fast and easy rail access to the world through their nearest international gateway – and here in the North that is Manchester Airport.

“That is why it is critical plans for a new east-west high-speed network, with the Airport at its heart, are delivered as soon as possible.

“This report spells out the size of the prize and we look forward to work with business and political partners in the North, as well as whoever goes on to lead the country, to ensure that vision becomes a reality.”

Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham said:  “A growing Manchester Airport connecting Greater Manchester as a city-region and the wider north west to all corners of the globe is integral to our plans of truly creating a Northern Powerhouse.

“Connecting the airport to a high-speed, modern rail network is one of the ways we can grow the economy of the whole of the north, creating significant jobs and opportunities for our people.

“Connecting Greater Manchester with some of the biggest economies around the world can only bring positives and cement the north’s position as a major player on the world stage.

“Putting Manchester Airport at the centre of these plans doesn’t just benefit my city-region, but the whole of the north for jobs, tourism, and prosperity, which is an opportunity any government should be jumping at.”

Northern Powerhouse Partnership CEO Henri Murison said: “Manchester Airport serves as the gateway from the whole of the North of England to the rest of the world, supporting trade, tourism and investment.

“The government’s number one priority from its Network North commitments needs to be delivering the legislation for the link between the airport and Manchester Piccadilly, as part of an accelerated delivery programme for Northern Powerhouse Rail. Investment and jobs will flow in as soon as we have certainty on the route beyond to Yorkshire as well as to Liverpool, in the same way we have seen in other regions.

“As this report rightly says, this should be at the heart of our plan to transform the North’s connectivity if we are to drive productivity and growth.”

Amer Gaffar, Director MMU Fuel Cell Innovation Centre, said: “The exciting potential demonstrated in the Arup report underpins many of the region’s well established research and innovation strengths but especially showcases how the airport can become an innovation destination of choice for global industry in their drive towards net zero.

“By working collaboratively, we will create a talent pipeline that ensures we match ambitions of new infrastructure with the innovation and people we need to deliver a greener more equitable future for all.”

Professor Adam Beaumont, founder and CEO of Leeds-based technology firm AQL, said: “Our rapidly growing business in the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellite technology sector has driven our global expansion across every continent. We not only need direct flights from the UK’s major hubs such as Manchester but also a more integrated and seamless transport system to and from our northern cities.

“We also need to support our airports in securing strategic routes to help us fulfil our digital aspirations, but to leverage these new routes, we must have a robust transport network.

“New visitor destinations, such as Eden Morecambe, could be transformational exemplars of levelling-up, but only if we can ensure that transport is seamless and integrated across the North, with regular services integrated digitally and physically with our major international hubs such as Manchester Airport.”

Matt Robinson, head of nations and regions for techUK, said: “Tech and the digital economy are a major driver for growth, jobs and investment in the UK. To sustain this, we need world-class transport infrastructure, from airports to public transit, to connect people, places and businesses.

“techUK welcomes the Manchester Airport Group’s report, underscoring the importance of robust physical infrastructure and global connections to advance our ambition of becoming a science and tech powerhouse.”

Colin Sinclair, CEO of Knowledge Quarter Liverpool (KQ Liverpool) and Sciontec said: “Improving connectivity between Manchester Airport and Liverpool, along with other Northern cities, is imperative to the future economic growth of the North and wider UK. The scale of opportunity, and ambition, is limitless and the report clearly identifies this.

“If we want to truly rebalance the UK economy, investment into transport infrastructure between Liverpool and Manchester, and also between both Liverpool John Lennon and Manchester airports, is key. Cutting the journey time from Manchester Airport to Liverpool by more than half, will not only improve connectivity for tourists, commuters and communities alike, but also strengthen the North’s global position in unlocking access to key markets.

“In the case of Liverpool, there is considerable momentum around the recently announced Liverpool City Region Life Sciences Investment Zone. Reinforcing this £800m opportunity, with mutual investment into transport infrastructure will allow the North and UK to drive forward its strengths in the life sciences sector with positive spillover effects right across the North. We would see increased inward investment as a result, as well as attracting the occupiers needed to create the high-value jobs and grow the economy.”

In the last two weeks, new routes to Casablanca in Morocco and Amaan in Jordan have been added to the more than 200-strong list of destinations Manchester serves. Later this week the airport is set to announce further new routes.

When Manchester Airport introduced flights to Beijing with Hainan Airlines in 2016, export values from Manchester Airport to China also rose 41%, against the backdrop of a 30% drop in the national average.