Transport Minister Andrew Jones has declared Government support for a high speed East – West rail link as MPs debate the importance of Manchester Airport to the UK economy and integration with HS2 plans.
A group of MPs have said boosting east-west rail links will deliver “truly transformational” benefits to the Northern economy.
On their back of their calls, Transport Minister Andrew Jones has pledged the Government will do all it all to integrate an east-west link with the HS2 link from north to south.
Transport Minister Andrew Jones said: “I completely recognise that Manchester Airport is thoroughly important, not just for Manchester but for the whole of the North of England with its power to connect it. I can also confirm that we are developing plans for HS3 alongside HS2; that are not separate schemes being developed in isolation. We are looking at integration of the two.”
Support for east-west connectivity – dubbed “HS3” – was given in a Westminster Hall debate, on October 11, focussing on HS2 and the benefits it will bring to the North West.
Various MPs also discussed how improved surface access will also help unlock the full potential of Manchester Airport, leading to more long haul routes being added from the gateway in the future.
Transport for the North has unveiled its vision for a Northern Powerhouse Rail network, which centres around improved east-west links.
It would see journey times between the North’s key cities and Manchester Airport reduced.
Mike Kane, Labour MP for Wythenshawe and Sale East, said: “HS2 will drive growth in the North, as other Members have said, and help free up capacity. We need the extra capacity, but we also need a station at Manchester Airport. That will be critical to ensuring the benefits of the project are felt beyond Manchester as a whole, in the wider catchment areas. Any measures that help to reduce journey times and free up capacity on the existing network, enabling more places across the North to be connected to Manchester Airport will be most welcome.
“One of the most important features of HS2 and a station at Manchester Airport is the potential for wider rail network improvements. A connected network would potentially deliver truly transformational benefits for the North. Connectivity to and from Manchester Airport is a key factor for airlines when they think about introducing new long-haul routes.
“I mentioned the transformational nature of a connected network. The current journey time from Manchester Airport to Euston is two hours and 24 minutes. That will be revolutionised; it will come down to 59 minutes. If we do this right, it will open up whole new markets, from Hull to Liverpool, Chester and North Wales.
“From Manchester Airport, it currently takes 65 minutes to get to Liverpool and 73 minutes to get to Sheffield. If we introduced HS2 and HS3, those journeys would be reduced to 30 minutes. To get from Manchester Airport to Leeds, it would take 10 minutes to get to Manchester City Centre and another 30 minutes to get to Leeds – 40 minutes in total. We would be linking three major airport hubs at Speke, Manchester and Leeds-Bradford, all for the cost of one Crossrail project – it would be the same length – and creating unheard of runway capacity across the North.
“We estimate that with the right rail improvements that open up the catchment area and gave airlines access to more passenger demand, 20 to 30 new long-haul routes from Manchester Airport would be made viable.”
Mary Robinson, Conservative MP for Cheadle, said: “The HS2 station at Manchester Airport will reach close to my constituency and offer substantial further scope for jobs and productivity growth. It will maximise the airport’s potential and recognise its capacity to grow and handle up to 55 million passengers per annum. Manchester Airport employs 20,000 people, many of whom live in my constituency, and contributes £1.8 billion annually to the economy. The £1 billion transformation plan to develop the airport promises more jobs and wealth creation. That hub is vital to supporting development and key to regional prosperity and delivering the Northern Powerhouse.
“One of the most important features of HS2, with a station at Manchester Airport, is the potential for it to form a wider Northern Powerhouse rail network. Such a connected network has the potential to deliver truly transformational benefits for the North. With the current rail access to Manchester Airport, the population within a two-hour catchment area using public transport stands at only 3.5 million, compared with 11 million and 12 million at Gatwick and Heathrow respectively. Manchester is the only city that can be reached by rail in 30 minutes. It is critical we get the Manchester Airport hub and that the design and delivery of HS2 works hand in hand with the design and delivery of a true HS3 east-west link across the North as part of the wider NPR network.”
Antoinette Sandbach, Conservative MP for Eddisbury, said: “If the money is to be spent, it needs to be spent properly and needs to ensure those five or six trains to Crewe and a link to Manchester Airport in order to deliver for the region.”
On the importance of an integrated road and rail approach, and the Northern Powerhouse, Graham Evans, Conservative MP for Weaver Vale, said: “It would be a mistake to look at High Speed 2 as a standalone project. Over the next five years, three times the amount that is spent on High Speed 2 will be spent on roads, railways and other forms of transport. It is really important to ensure that High Speed 2 and the other expenditure on other transport in the North West complement each other so the connectivity that High Speed 2 brings is enhanced throughout the North West, spreading the benefits.
“Connectivity between our cities such as HS3 is vital for the development of the Northern Powerhouse and the rebalancing of our economy. North West businesses will have better access to specialised services, a larger workforce and greater opportunities to offer their services to the capital. Likewise, shorter journey times are vital for business-related journeys, and connections with London alone could bring £4 billion of benefits to the North West.
“We must look at High Speed 2 not in isolation but as part of an overall strategy for improving connectivity throughout the North West. We must take steps to ensure that spending on other areas of the transport infrastructure is, as much as possible, complementary to the High Speed 2 network.”
Manchester Airport, the UK’s third largest, is the global entry point to the Northern Powerhouse and currently sees upwards of 60% of the business travel into the North of England. It has upwards of 210 destinations, served by more than 70 airlines, this year it will see 25 million passengers fly through its three terminals.
Manchester Airport CEO Ken O’Toole said: “It is pleasing to see politicians from across the political spectrum and from various parts of the North recognising the importance of investment in key infrastructure projects like HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail.
“It is easy to see why investment in road and rail is so important – transport is the bedrock of any economy – national or regional. Unless access between the major Northern towns and cities and assets like Manchester Airport is also improved, the North will not fully benefit from our growth.
“The North has a wealth of untapped potential and we are firmly of the view that integrating Manchester Airport with high speed and improved rail links, alongside improved road connectivity, will deliver substantial economic benefits for not only the region, but also for the entire country.”