The government must seize the opportunity presented by a new national aviation policy to ensure UK airports maximise their potential to link to the world’s most important markets.
But that will not be achieved unless road, rail and aviation policies are joined up, according to Manchester airport chief executive Ken O’Toole.
Unlocking the potential of airports such as Manchester was key to creating a “truly global Britain,” especially in the 10-15 years it will take to build a new runway at Heathrow, he said.
Short-term measures that the government could take to demonstrate Britain was “open for business” include the reform of aviation taxes, border and visa policies.
He was speaking as Manchester airport unveiled new images showing what it could look like following a the next phase of a £1 billion transformation plan.
Addressing a UK Northern Powerhouse conference, O’Toole 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 Northern Powerhouse Rail 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 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.”
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.”