Manchester Airport scales back growth ambitions because of HS2 axing

Manchester Airport

Manchester Airport has scaled back plans to hit an ambitious target of 60m passengers a year due to the axing of HS2.

Ken O’Toole, MAG’s chief executive said the corporate plan is now to aim for 50m a year instead, but is also throwing the weight of MAG behind plans from Mayors Andy Street and Andy Burnham to secure private funding for rail links between Manchester and the Midlands.

“The connection of Manchester Airport to HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail is consistent with what the UK needs, an integrated transport network of roads, rail and airports. HS2 would have been a key enabler of economic growth in the north,” he told The Times.

“HS2 would have broadened our catchment area but the bigger issue is the value lost of what Manchester could have brought as a complementary major airport to Heathrow and what it operates in the south. There remains a strong economic case for the extension of HS2 from Birmingham to Manchester and we are encouraged at and support the mayors’ engagement.”

At the time of the cancellation by Rishi Sunak in October Ken O’Toole, MAG’s chief executive said: “It would be wrong of the Prime Minister to abandon the commitments the Government has made to deliver HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail (NPR) – the North needs better connectivity to drive its economy forward.”

He said the region was misled and let down over HS2. 

“The U.K. needs a bold and ambitious plan for unlocking the potential of the North and rebalancing the national economy. That plan should integrate a modern rail network with the global connectivity provided by Manchester Airport. We call on government to work with business and political leaders to ensure that vision is delivered.

“If that connected transport network is not delivered, then more than a decade of laying the foundations for the North’s future will have been wasted, and people and businesses of the region would understandably feel let down and misled.”

Separately, Manchester Airports Group (MAG) had a strong start to 2024, serving 3.9m passengers across its airports in January.

The passenger total for the Group, which owns and operates Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands Airports, was up 9% year-on-year, and was equal to 100% of January 2019 figures.

London Stansted and Manchester Airports both recorded their busiest ever Januarys, with their passenger totals equalling 101% of 2019 levels. London Stansted Airport served 1.9m  passengers across the month, up 6.9%, and Manchester Airport served 1.8m  passengers – up 9.5% year-on-year.

East Midlands saw its monthly traffic increase by 30% year-on-year, with 177,000 passengers travelling through the airport, which was equal to 82% of 2019 levels.

Service levels across MAG airport remained high as the new year began, where 100% of passengers passing through security in 15 minutes or less at both Manchester and East Midlands Airports, with the figure 99% at London Stansted.