Is it healthy for the northern economy for Manchester Airport to be so far ahead of the others?
In Leeds there are fundamental questions over whether the airport is in the right place whilst Liverpool John Lennon is still reeling from the double whammy of losing KLM and some of its low cost business to Manchester.
Plans for HS2 have reignited the debate over the location of Leeds-Bradford airport. Leeds Council leader Keith Wakefield has launched a major debate on the future of the city region’s transport system. Nothing is ruled out apparently including a new airport in a more convenient location. A cheaper solution would be a rail link from the airport to the centre of the city. Not surprisingly that’s the solution suggested by Tony Hallwood, marketing director at Leeds-Bradford airport. However he wants support from the city region and wider to build the rail and road connections fit for the 21st century.
On Merseyside John Lennon Airport(JLA) has suffered a series of blows. Plans for a tram link into the city began to disintegrate exactly ten years ago. KLM pulled out severing the airports connection to the global hub of Amsterdam. Most serious of all Manchester has been poaching some of the budget airline business that used to give JLA its unique selling point.
The other thing about JLA is that the customer experience isn’t always great. I recently hosted Downtown’s programme on City Talk and asked my guests about the decline of JLA. One referred to having to stand in the rain waiting for connections, another said she lived and shopped in Liverpool but the one thing she looked to Manchester for was its airport. She put this down to the danger of the downward spiral of expectation. With services being cut there was an assumption that Manchester would have the destinations so JLA lost out even if in fact the flights were still there.
On the same programme Cllr Nick Small called on the airport to go for more full service operators particularly to the Middle East and Turkey and to reduce its dependency on the low cost airlines.
Ryanair expected 200,000 new passengers for Liverpool last year but only got half that. Civil Aviation Authority figures shows that JLA was one of only two major UK airports to lose passengers last year.
And yet 90% of people living on Merseyside say they would rather fly from Liverpool so it needs to get its act together. The goodwill is there. Talks are ongoing with Lufthansa to introduce services to German cities. Let’s hope they have a positive outcome.
No this is not the name of a Polish striker but the initials of The Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens,Sefton and Wirral Combined Authority. That’s the proposed name for the new organisation that’s set to help with skills, transport and economic matters across the City Region from April.
The tortuous name is the result of sensitivity by some districts to the name Liverpool.
I can’t match Frank McKenna’s magnificent tirade on this subject in his special blog this week.
Dare I suggest Greater Liverpool Combined Authority? Leeds seems to have settled for the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.
What is more worrying is Frank’s information that there are questions over whether Joe Anderson should lead the new body. That’s silly but I hope he doesn’t follow Frank’s advice and walk away. “Merseyside” has suffered too long from these sort of quarrels that are largely absent in Manchester. We need common sense not walk outs.