MAG boss calls for regional perpsective in aviation debate

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THE government must not forget about its pledge to tackle the North-South divide when setting aviation policy, the boss of Manchester Airports Group has said.

Speaking to TheBusinessDesk at the Runways UK event on Tuesday, Charlie Cornish said there is more to the debate than just looking at boosting capacity at Heathrow or Gatwick – as is the proposal by the Airports Commission.

Mr Cornish said there was a “strong economic case” for regional airports to be “more than spokes” serving a southern hub, as he cited investments by Emirates and Etihad which have created hundreds of jobs in the North West.

He said: “There should be a network of competing airports in the UK, especially if you consider the opportunity presented by rail enhancements.

“With HS2 and HS3 there is an opportunity for regions in the UK to actually start to narrow the North- South divide.

“The Chancellor’s support for the Northern Powerhouse is fundamentally important to rebalancing the UK economy. If we look at High Speed 2 coming to the Manchester Airport and we get east- west connectivity in rail improvements too then that’s going to change the northern base.”

He added: “When the government starts to think about how they want the UK to develop, they have to think more than the outputs from the South East,  but all of the outputs from all the rail investment propositions, the Northern Powerhouse and what they want to do about the North South divide. It’s not just a simple matter.”

He said that he expects his two largest assets, Manchester and Stansted to continue to grow regardless of the Airport Commission’s final recommendations.

In the next five years he said Manchester’s passenger growth would rise from 22 million to more than 25 million, while Stansted, which is operating a 50% capacity would double in size by 2030.

“Our plans will see MAG airports grow irrespective of the decisions made on Heathrow or Gatwick,” he said.