This is a sponsored post by Heathrow Airport.

It’s no surprise that Chancellor George Osborne was talking up the investment opportunities in the Northern Powerhouse while on his trade mission to China.

The Northern Powerhouse project developed under the last Government has kicked off critical infrastructure and regeneration projects across the region from Sheffield’s retail quarter to housing in Leeds and the development of Manchester Place. And soon the Government will decide on another critical issue for the North – whether to expand Heathrow.

Most of the growth in the world is in Asia, Africa, North and South America – markets you can only get to by air. And businesses across the UK need flights to growth markets with as high a frequency as possible.  This means that the vitality of airports within the Northern Powerhouse – like Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Leeds Bradford and Humberside – are vital to the success of the project.

In most cases, direct flights to emerging markets can only be sustained from a hub airport where passengers and freight are aggregated to fly to markets across the globe multiple times a day in every week of every season. Heathrow is one of the world’s great hubs, with regular direct services to 82 long haul destinations. This is a rare and valuable asset for the UK – in fact only five other airports in the world currently support more than 50 long haul destinations.

Heathrow makes it easier for British businesses to get to world markets and for inward investors, tourists and students to come here.  The same planes that carry business people around the world also carry their exports – over 25 per cent of the UK’s exports reach customers around the globe in the belly hold of passenger planes from Heathrow.

The Airports Commission estimates expansion at Heathrow will generate up to £211 billion of economic growth and 180,000 jobs across the country. Around 94,900 of those will be in manufacturing, the seedbed of the Northern Powerhouse project. New research by QUOD shows that one-third of these manufacturing jobs will be generated in the North.

Heathrow does not stand in the way of UK airports securing their own direct connections where demand exists. Indeed, it was precisely because Cathay Pacific could see how many of the 500,000 passengers that annually transfer at Heathrow from Manchester Airport were connecting to Hong Kong that they had the confidence to begin a direct flight from Manchester. Passengers now have the choice to travel on one of the four flights per week from Manchester or, if none are convenient, travel on one of the 12 daily flights to Heathrow and from there, connect onto one of the eight daily flights to Hong Kong.

Heathrow has the same number of runways as Manchester Airport but has been full for ten years. We have to turn away UK and international airlines who want to establish new direct flights to the UK. Other airports in the UK have capacity but airlines that have attempted long-haul routes elsewhere have soon pulled out due to lack of demand. France and Germany benefit from Heathrow being constrained, not Manchester and Leeds.

Existing airlines have to choose between developing new routes to cities like Chengdu and Mexico City and maintaining services to UK regions. The result is that Metropolitan areas in Merseyside, Humberside and Teesside and regional economies in Cornwall and the Highlands are currently locked out of Heathrow completely.

Metropolitan areas outside of London deserve better than to rely on often infrequent and low quality connections to hub airports in Europe and the Middle East, let alone be reliant on the commercial decisions of foreign airlines and airports for their global connectivity. It is in the long term interests of the UK if it is able to determine the future of its own trading routes, but it can only do so if Heathrow expands.

There are over 30 airlines who want to increase or add services to Heathrow from Inverness and Liverpool as well as Incheon and La Paz. This means Heathrow can be integral to the Northern Powerhouse project: by empowering airports across the North and North East of England with better and more frequent global connections, Heathrow expansion is the chance not only to build on success in Manchester but also to broaden the Powerhouse to Liverpool, Newcastle, Leeds and Humberside.

Expansion at Heathrow has won us the support from across the Northern Powerhouse, with airports in Liverpool, Leeds Bradford and Newcastle publicly endorsing our plans. Chambers of Commerce in Liverpool, Lancashire, Harrogate, Doncaster, the North East, Cumbria and West & North Yorkshire are some of our most vocal supporters.

The Heathrow debate isn’t about a new runway. This debate is about how the UK maintains its status and keeps one of the world’s great trading nations at the centre of the global economy. Critically, it is a plan that will give a boost to the Northern Powerhouse and support plans for its future.

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