Choose Manchester to improve UK's airport capacity

From Hackney, getting on a flight at Manchester airport takes only slightly longer than boarding at Heathrow. And with the arrival of HS2, that time will only get shorter

Share

Sir Howard Davies’ review of airport capacity was widely criticised for kicking the issue into the long grass. But Boris Johnson has other ideas and yesterday set out a grand plan for ‘aerotropolis’ – a Hyderabad-style airport city built in just a couple of years in the Thames Estuary.

Those with an eye for detail in these matters will have spotted that Davies’ task is much wider than settling disputes between Osborne’s pro-Heathrow lobby and Boris island. The Airports Commission has been tasked with “maintaining a UK-wide perspective, taking appropriate account of the national, regional and local implications of any proposals” and in its interim report set out “immediate actions to improve the use of existing runway capacity in the next five years”.

To this end the Northern Economic Futures Commission, which makes its Final Report this week, puts a third option on the table which aims to widen a debate which has become typically metropolitan and myopic: to make Manchester airport the UK’s second international airport hub.

Go North

In most other developed nations this would be a no-brainer: spreading the economic wealth and opportunities that come with airport development across the nation, just as Germany does with Frankfurt and Munich or Spain with Madrid and Barcelona. But as with other economic affairs, the rhetoric of rebalancing is subsumed by a preoccupation with the self-fulfilling prophecy of south eastern success.

Considering the statistics produced by the Civil Aviation Authority, Manchester has a maximum capacity of 330,000 air transport movements per annum (ATMs) – bigger than Stanstead and Gatwick and second only to Heathrow at 480,000 ATMs. Manchester currently operates at 150,000 ATMs, massively under capacity like other Northern airports. So is it really too naïve to suggest that we use Manchester’s excess capacity to address the nation’s capacity problems? Apparently so. Who would want to travel all the way to Manchester to take a direct flight to Beijing?

First of all, Northern businesses. The north is home to a quarter of the nation’s business base who currently have to break their journeys overseas, not necessarily at Heathrow, but more easily at Schiphol, Frankfurt and Abu Dhabi. Not only is this a drag on Northern trade potential but it ensures the wider benefits of airport transfers are accrued overseas. The Northern Economic Futures Commission is also arguing for a period of reduced Air Passenger Duty at Northern airports to drive demand from Northern business travellers.

Hackney to Manchester

But southern travellers could benefit too. Consider the current travel times into and then out of Heathrow from say, East London. From Hackney to Heathrow Terminal 5 takes 75 minutes with a further 180 minutes from arrival at the airport to departure: 4hrs 15 minutes in total. The same journey to Manchester Airport currently takes 186 minutes but with a 90 minute check in time, so only narrowly exceeds the Heathrow option. But with the eventual arrival of HS2 the picture changes dramatically, with the journey time to Manchester Airport falling to around 90 minutes it could be feasible to take off from Manchester on a direct flight to Beijing having left Hackney just three hours earlier.

And as for ‘airport cities’, Boris may be looking East, but Manchester is already blazing a trail. Its airport city plans received approval as an enterprise zone in March 2011 and the foundations for its MediPark, business and retail facilities are already well under way.

Unlike Boris, Sir Howard Davies will no doubt have a wider scope and understand the actual meaning of a national aviation policy, but if northern prosperity means national prosperity then the Airports Commission has another serious option on the table.

Ed Cox is Director of IPPR North and Deputy Chair of IPPR North’s Northern Economic Future Commission. The commission’s final report will be launched in Leeds on Friday.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Developer (C#, ASP.NET Developer, SQL, MVC, WPF, Real-Time F

£40000 - £48000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Devel...

C# Swift Payment Developer (C#, ASP.NET, .NET, MVC, Authorize.N

£45000 - £60000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: C# Swift...

Front-End Developer (JavaScript, HTML5, CSS3, C#, GUI)

£55000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Front-End Deve...

Graduate C# Developer (.NET, WPF, SQL, Agile, C++) - London

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Graduate C# De...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Would you fork out to spend time on Sting's Tuscan estate?  

Happy to pay for the privilege of picking olives? Then Sting might have a job for you...

John Walsh
Clockwise from top: Zafran Ramzan, Razwan Razaq (main picture), Adil Hussain, Umar Razaq and Mohsin Khan were sentenced for grooming teenage girls for sex in 2010.  

Nothing can make up for the trauma of Rotherham's abused young girls, but many more heads must roll

Jane Merrick
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?