Select Committee on Environment, Transport and Regional Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum by Manchester Airport (RT 40)


  1.1  Manchester Airport welcomes the opportunity to set before the Select Committee its views on Light Rapid Transit systems and in particular how one scheme, the proposed Metrolink extension to Manchester Airport, is vital to the future sustainable growth of the Airport.

  1.2  The Metrolink extension to Manchester Airport will:

    —  provide a realistic surface access alternative to the private car;

    —  assist in reducing the level of car parking on site;

    —  extend employment opportunities to areas of the conurbation not presently well served with public transport access to the Airport;

    —  contribute to social inclusion by opening access to airport jobs in areas of high unemployment; and

    —  add significantly to the viability of the proposed Greater Manchester Metrolink network overall.

  1.3  Achieving high quality, integrated public transport via LRT schemes such as Metrolink is central to the airport's ability to play a full part in achieving the objectives of the Integrated Transport White Paper.

  1.4  Moreover, Manchester Airport's planned investment in a state-of-the-art Ground Transport Interchange, including Metrolink, is a stunning example of seeking to achieve high quality public transport links to a major employment and commercial centre.


  2.1  Manchester Airport is the UK's third largest airport, with a passenger throughput of 17.8 million passengers a year (mppa). In terms of international traffic, we are among the world's top 20 airports—a major player in a global industry which is experiencing faster growth than most other economic sectors. Forecasts indicate that by 2015, 40.7 mppa will use Manchester Airport.

  2.2  The growing range and frequency of direct international flights from Manchester, fed from its extensive catchment area, reinforces its dominance among the UK airports outside London, and its role as a realistic second hub alternative to Heathrow and Gatwick for long haul flights. From being a regional airport, Manchester has developed to become a major world airport located in the North West region of the UK.

  2.3  Manchester Airport brings massive benefits to the city of Manchester and to the whole of the North West of England. There are over 17,500 jobs located on site, a figure increasing at the rate of seven jobs every day, and an estimated 35,000 further jobs sustained by the operation of the Airport. Over the next 10 years, our growth and development has the potential to create some 68,000 direct and indirect jobs in the region and to generate £1.7 billion of spending power in the economy.


  3.1  Manchester Airport, in common with other major airport operators in the UK and elsewhere, has recognised that maintaining excellent surface access to the site is a fundamental requirement for future growth if it is not to become strangled through road congestion. Manchester Airport enjoys direct links to the motorway system, but we have long acknowledged that reliance on the roads for airport access is not going to serve either the local communities or the Airport business. It is not a sustainable approach.

  3.2  As part of the package of environmental measures associated with the second runway, we have made a commitment to our local communities through a Section 106 Planning Agreement that by 2005, 25 per cent of all trips to the Airport will be made by public transport.

  3.3  The projected growth of Manchester Airport to 40.7mppa by 2015, with the accompanying growth in direct on-site and local employment, will create demand for increasing and improved surface access to the Airport. We are committed to meeting this growing demand through the provision of excellent public transport.

  3.4  This commitment, delivered through partnerships with other transport providers, has brought about an integrated approach to the local transport system serving the Airport which will be further facilitated when the intermodal Ground Transport Interchange is completed. This facility, work on which starts in Autumn 1999 will co-locate bus, coach and heavy rail stations, together with the Metrolink line.

  3.5  Metrolink is unlikely to serve a high proportion of the Airport's passengers, principally as they are drawn from a very extensive catchment area and will make greater use of the rail network to reach Manchester using the heavy rail link which is already in place. This already serves over 1mppa at present, and planned extensions to the rail station will increase the capacity of the rail link considerably.

  3.6  Metrolink's role is to reduce the proportion of commuter trips by road. The planned route for the Metrolink extension to Manchester Airport will take in communities with significant levels of Airport employment, and ensure that the benefits of employment growth can be experienced in communities most local to the site, where unemployment can be as high as 16 per cent and the incidence of car ownership is correspondingly low.

  3.7  By 2015, employee numbers at the airport site will have risen to 40,000, which equates to 50,000 employee journeys to and from the airport each day.


  4.1  We have throughout the last decade been proactively developing alternative modes of transport and infrastructure for airport access as we have long since recognised the need, on sustainability grounds, to provide alternatives to the private car.

  4.2  Vehicle trips to and from Manchester Airport averaged over 60,000 per day in 1998. This should also be put in the context of a growing airport, providing the major alternative to airports in the south east for air travellers from the North, Midlands, North Wales and Southern Scotland. Forecast growth to 40.7 million passengers and 40,000 employees on site means that corresponding growth in the number of vehicle trips is unsustainable. Quality alternatives to the car are needed.

  4.3  The lack of an effective high quality urban public transport system has encouraged employees to use the car for travelling to work, particularly where unsocial hours/shift working is involved. Until the opening of the rail link in 1993, there was no effective public transport service for passengers.

  4.4  We set out our approach and objectives in the Manchester Airport Ground Transport Strategy, published in 1997. Our strategy aims to make optimum use of all transport modes. While there is an obvious presumption to make use of bus or LRT for relatively short journeys, including commuting traffic, we have set out to work with partners to maximise the integration of the total network serving the airport.

  4.5  To date over £60 million has been invested in public transport infrastructure, promotions and services at Manchester Airport:

    —  the airport rail link, opened in 1993, now provides regular direct services to many towns and cities in the North and Midlands and is used by over 1 million air passengers annually.

    —  a bus quality partnership with local bus operators has delivered more services, with new low floor buses on many airport routes, doubling the number of airport bus users since 1995.

  Work is about to start on the Ground Transport Interchange, a £60 million project to develop a multi modal interchange centred on the airport rail station to support and encourage the use of public transport by passengers and employees.

  4.6  The employees of the more than 250 on-site companies account for one third of all airport trips. The Ground Transport Strategy clearly has had to embrace this element of travel to the Airport. Policies and initiatives to cover employee travel were set out in the Manchester Airport Green Commuter Plan launched in October 1998. The approach of this plan is to promote an evolutionary rather than revolutionary change in employee travel habits away from the car to more sustainable modes. It encourages employees to think and choose their appropriate mode of travel, and promotes the message that small changes in behaviour can be made by each, to give a collective benefit to all, without having a major impact on the lifestyle of the individual.

  4.7  Many of our efforts to produce modal switch in favour of public transport have been directed to providing employees and passengers with attractive alternatives to the car; we have recognised the need for measures which apply the "stick" as well as the "carrot". Last year we informed our on site companies and employee car park users that we were capping the number of employee car parking spaces on site at the current level of 4,200, and will be increasing the price to the user over the next five years to approximately £400 per year. It is our intention to accommodate the increased demand for employee travel through increased choice in public transport, and not through increased car parking. The revenue raised from charging for car parking is available for invement in improvements in public transport provision and in facilities such as the Ground Transport Interchange development. Clearly, were Manchester Airport plc free from vires constraints, this revenue could be used in commercial partnership to leverage even greater public transport investment.


  5.1  Within Greater Manchester, the Metrolink LRT system has proved enormously successful. Phase 1, with lines to Bury and Altrincham from Manchester City Centre, now carries in excess of 13 million passengers per year compared with 7.5 million rail journeys on the rail lines it replaced, and has taken over 2.5 million journeys a year off the road network. This success is currently confined to a relatively small corridor through the conurbation, and the existing system is of benefit to a relatively small number of airport users (who use the connection to the airport rail link at Manchester Piccadilly rail station).

  5.2  The success of the first phase has led the Greater Manchester Passenger Authority and Executive to set the objective of creating an integrated network of LRT services in Greater Manchester, where they are appropriate. We have co-operated with the Authority and Executive to obtain powers to construct a Metrolink extenstion to Manchester Airport via Wythenshawe. The Airport Metrolink line will connect with the airport's planned Ground Transport Interchange. A second phase of Metrolink to Salford Quays and Eccles is being constructed, and GMPTA/E also have powers to construct the following lines:

    —  Rochdale via Oldham;

    —  Ashton-under-Lyne;

    —  East Didsbury; and

    —  Trafford Park.

    —  to create an integrated LRT urban network for Greater Manchester.


  6.1  We believe in providing choice, integration between modes, quality and accessibility and are firmly of the view that both LRT systems and buses will play an important role in the airport public transport of the future. These assets are crucial to our other objectives of recruiting a local labour force and catalysing local and regional regeneration.

  6.2  LRT systems such as Metrolink combine the speed of heavy rail with the flexibility to penetrate conurbation centres such as those to the North and East of the airport. These benefits have been clearly demonstrated by the success of the Manchester Metrolink LRT system. It has been successful as a transport mode, attracting users out of their cars by combining accessibility to its stations in urban areas, high frequency, a quality travelling environment and low waiting times for passengers, to produce journey times that are competitive with those in the private car. Making use of segregated or off street running where appropriate, LRT's provide faster and more reliable running than comparable bus journeys which share the same congested roads as the car user.

  6.3  Two major district centres, Altrincham and Bury lie at the other ends of the Phase 1 line, providing a balanced flow in both directions for most of the day. Manchester Airport has now reached sufficient size to have the effect of a district centre on a LRT network. Growth in passengers from 17.8 mppa now to over 40.7 mppa by 2015, and in employees to 40,000 by 2015 will make the airport a major trip attractor on the line and network. In addition the airport operates 24 hours a day and every day. This will balance and complement the flows generated back into the City and elsewhere on the network.

  6.4  The success of Metrolink on its existing routes, and its choice above bus for an airport link, does not imply a lesser role for bus in the overall airport access strategy. Rather that the attributes of Metrolink: speed, frequency and accessibility, combined with sections of off street running, will substantially deliver increased numbers of users, and modal switch from the car, than would bus over the same route. Without major investment in infrastructure to remove it from other traffic along the (airport) route, bus could not compete on journey time, passenger perceptions or reliability.

  Bus will complement Metrolink, providing links from areas where LRT systems are difficult or impossible to construct economically, and provide feeder services to interchange points.

  6.5  Its success as a transport mode will produce benefits other than modal switch for airport journeys including:

    —  reduced traffic levels on airport roads and along its route, leading to reduced congestion and lower emissions from traffic;

    —  reduced demand for car parking on site, especially from employees, who are expected to be major user of Metrolink;

    —  greater social inclusion as a result of creating a fully accessible system, which will deliver economic benefits from better access to airport jobs, and will strengthen the role of the airport as a provider of employment to local communities.

  6.6  As with heavy rail, LRT systems have a degree of permanence that cannot be matched by conventional road based public transport such as buses. Users acquire a confidence in its reliability both to deliver service to the timetable, and in the long term that the service will continue to be provided. This high degree of permanence and reliability, will over time, influence location decisons that will see a redistribution of airport employee home locations and ancillary businesses along the Metrolink LRT route.

  6.7  It is unlikely that the airport's ground transport objectives can be fulfilled by its heavy rail and bus networks alone. Metrolink provides a level of integration and accessibility unmatched by bus or rail, but its benefits will be reinforced by it being part of an integrated transport system for both Greater Manchester and airport access. Metrolink already links with bus and rail services in Manchester. Its success as an airport transport system will be enhanced by its inclusion within the airport's Ground Transport Interchange, enabling local users to connect with airport bus, coach and train services, as well as air travel.


  7.1  Powers were granted to GMPTE in 1997 for the Airport Metrolink line. We supported GMPTE in their application, and at the Inquiry by giving evidence in support of the scheme. We have, in addition, provided financial support, to the extent of £2.5 million, towards land and property acquisitions.

  7.2  The Airport Line will create a new public transport route along most of its length, and reduce journey times for passengers living on its route. Leaving the existing Phase 1 line from Manchester to Altrincham at Trafford Bar, the line will pass through the suburbs of Firswood, Chorlton, Sale Moor and Wythenshawe before reaching the Airport. The line will pass through the Airport to serve Wythenshawe Civic Centre, Wythenshawe Hospital (another large local employer) and a number of other regeneration sites in the Wythenshawe area.

  7.3  It is one of our stated sustainability objectives to recruit a local labour force. Unemployment alone most of the Airport Metrolink line is higher than the national average, especially in the Wythenshawe district, which also has SRB status. One of the barriers to Wythenshawe residents getting access to airport jobs is transport. Low car ownership goes hand in hand with high unemployment; this is exactly the case in Wythenshawe. In the 1991 census covering the Airport Metrolink corridor, only 49 per cent of households own one or more cars compared to 71 per cent in the Phase 1 corridor, and 16 per cent of inhabitants were unemployed compared to 7 per cent in the Phase 1 corridor. Wythenshawe residents are thus disadvantaged, compared to other districts with higher car ownership, when it comes to being able to travel to work.

  7.4  There are strong reasons to believe that an Airport Metrolink line will attract new users and generate modal shift. Since 1995 we have provided funding to enhance local bus services, targeting particularly extra early morning and weekend services to suit employees travelling to work from local residential districts. Many airport bus services pass through Wythenshawe, and Wythenshawe bus mode share is higher than the average for all airport employees. Metrolink will be expected to perform much better than buses on the evidence gained from the operation of the Phase 1 system.

  7.5  Air passenger use of the Metrolink extension is expected to be low in comparison to other categories of user, for a variety of reasons. The majority of Manchester Airport passengers originate from throughout the North of England and Midlands. There is thus a low level of air passengers originating in the Metrolink corridor compared to other users. The Manchester Airport Metrolink line will not provide a city centre/Airport link in the way that the London Underground Piccadilly line does for Heathrow. Heavy rail will continue to provide the main public transport service for air passengers travelling to Manchester. Metrolink services complement and do not compete with rail, providing access to a high quality LRT urban transport system throughout Greater Manchester.

  7.6  Forecasts have been prepared to demonstrate the potential of an Airport Metrolink line. With the same level of parking supply as today (a hypothetical situation where supply meets demand), Metrolink would attract 860,000 employee trips per annum by 2015. However, we have already set the policy objective not to increase the number of employee car park spaces beyond the current level (4,200), and to manage demand through increased availability of public transport. In this scenario, with parking restraint, it is anticipated that 1,400,000 employee journeys will be generated annually.

  7.7  We have commented earlier on the potential for Metrolink or other LRT systems to trigger redistribution of airport employee home residences. The effect of redistribution and parking restraint is to increase further Metrolink patronage by 600,000 trips per annum or 2 million in total by 2015.

  7.8  Air passenger use of the Metrolink extension is forecast to be relatively low at less than 100,000 trips per annum. Overall passenger numbers for the Airport Metrolink line are expected to reach 8.5 million by 2015.

  7.9  Non user benefits for the Phase 1 lines from Bury and Altrincham have been calculated from experience gained with operation. Over 2.5 million car journeys per annum have been taken off the road network as a result, and traffic volumes on the parallel roads into Mancheser reduced by 2 per cent and 8 per cent. Whilst these are small in absolute terms, they can make a noticeable difference to the levels of congestion on roads affected. Initial forecasts predict that the Airport Metrolink line will remove 13,000 airport employee vehicle kilometres per day.


  8.1  The shareholders of Manchester Airport plc are Manchester City Council and the other nine districts which are the successor bodies to the Greater Manchester County. The ownership structure means that the Airport company's commercial activities are limited to the powers (vires) of those local authorities.

  8.2  while these constraints might still arguably allow for the Airport company to invest in the project to extend Metrolink to Manchester Airport itself, the company's powers do not extend to investment in the enlargement of the Metrolink network overall. This is central to the difficulty faced by the company, because the best value from Manchester's Metrolink system will be realised when the city has a network which enables the user to access a far greater proportion of the conurbation, travelling on branches of Metrolink line, than can be achieved by the system as it operates currently.

  8.3  Extending the network line by line denies the system the gains which could be had from the parallel construction of the network as presently envisaged, and means that the operators are denied the returns which are to be had from the added passenger usage which would accrue to a comprehensive, city-wide Metrolink network.

  8.4  The situation faced by the Airport is a prime example of how its vires constraints operate to narrowly confine investment opportunities. The piecemeal development of Metrolink is clearly not the best option for the Metrolink system users, potential users or its present and prospective operators. However, while Manchester Airport stands ready to invest in the development of the Airport extension, with all the benefits that will bring to the Airport, the city and the Metrolink system, it cannot enter into the wider network development which represents the most valuable way forward for all concerned. This cannot be right, and the vires constraints on Manchester Airport as a business engaged as a major player in many areas of the regional economy, public transport among them, must be addressed by Government.


  9.1  The development of the Metrolink system in Manchester, and particularly the Manchester Airport extension, is of crucial importance to the future of the city, the region and the Airport itself. Manchester Airport is making every effort not only to enhance public transport access to the site but also to integrate all the surface access modes to bring added value to Manchester's burgeoning integrated transport network and deliver Government policy.

  9.2  Manchester Airport is a sufficiently busy destination for the proposed Metrolink extension, which covers a heavily populated suburban area, to warrant the levels of investment necessary to build it. The great potential of the extension to take car trips off the local road system, and reduce the demand for staff car parking, means that the scheme will make a major contribution to achieving the Airport's Ground Transport Strategy and Government policy objectives. In fact, the target set by the Airport for the proportion of surface access to be achieved by public transport (25 per cent by 2005) may prove unreachable without it.

  9.3  Manchester Airport wants to ensure that the Metrolink extension is built, and is prepared to invest heavily in bringing light rail into the Airport site and the planned state-of-the-art Ground Transport Interchange. The best way forward for the development of the Metrolink system has been shown to be the parallel construction of branches that will provide for a city-wide network of lines to serve the widest catchment area. However, investment in the city-wide scheme on a normal commercial basis is at present outside the powers of the Airport and its local authority shareholders. The Committee is requested to consider how the Government should act to remove the vires constraints on Manchester Airport's owners to ensure that any investment the Airport makes in the Metrolink network can produce a proper return.

  9.4  Light rail systems, such as the Greater Manchester Metrolink network, have demonstrated clear success; attracting users away from their cars in numbers far in excess of other public transport modes. Manchester Airport seeks to capture that demand for light rail and to maximise both the social inclusion and access to employment benefits it brings, as well as the environmental benefits of increased public transport use.

October 1999

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