“The time is now,” for government to truly throw its weight behind the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ vision.
That was the message delivered by Manchester Airport chief executive Ken O’Toole as he unveiled the next phase of its £1 billion transformation programme at the property.
O’Toole said the airport is pressing ahead with the investment in recognition of the strength of the northern economy and the potential for hundreds of thousands of jobs to be created in the coming years.
The term Northern Powerhouse was originally associated with former chancellor George Osborne, but has lost support under the current government.
Delivering the opening speech at the UK Northern Powerhouse Conference in Manchester city centre, O’Toole said public and private sector leaders from across the north had ensured the northern powerhouse project maintained momentum over the past year.
That included Manchester Airport launching direct flights to key markets like Beijing, Houston, Los Angeles and Boston, as well as progressing with its £1 billion project, the largest private sector investment in the north.
O’Toole said a clear case had been made for investment in infrastructure projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail, which has the potential to transform the northern economy by dramatically improving connectivity between the north’s leading cities and Manchester Airport.
But he urged ministers to make a clear commitment to the scheme to show the government is serious about creating a thriving and internationally competitive Northern Powerhouse.
He 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 NPR 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.”