Memorandum submitted by Manchester Airport (CBPS 127)






1.1 Manchester Airport, part of the Manchester Airports Group, welcomes the opportunity to set before the Welsh Affairs Committee its views on road and rail services between Wales and Manchester Airport.

1.2 The majority of air passengers from Wales that fly from Manchester Airport originate from North Wales. We have therefore confined the scope of our evidence to cover movements between North Wales and Manchester Airport.


1.2 High quality, reliable and efficient public transport services are essential to Manchester Airport. They:


Provide a realistic surface access alternative to the private car;

Assist in reducing the level of car parking on site and promoting sustainable land use;

Reduce the number of vehicle trips on national and local roads around the airport;

Limit the need to make long road journeys to southeast airports; and

Maximise the airport's ability to meet air travel needs arising in the region, avoiding the need for expensive and environmentally damaging transfers over London and other European hub airports.


1.3 Achieving high quality, integrated public transport is central to Manchester Airport's ability to play a full part in achieving Government's objectives for aviation and air services development, and the goals set out in Towards a Sustainable Transport System; Government's response to recommendations from the Eddington and Stern studies to improve transport's contribution to economic growth and productivity, and reducing carbon emissions.




2.1 Manchester Airport is the UK's fourth biggest and the largest outside the south east. Manchester Airport handled over 22 million passengers in 2007 and is the major international gateway airport for travellers in the North of England, and North Wales.


3.1 Manchester Airport predominantly serves the North of Wales, drawing air passengers from the Gwynedd, Clwyd and northern Powys. The topography of northern and central Wales is such that air passengers from these areas will look first to airports in the North of England. In 2007[1] there were approximately 1.25 million air passengers originating from North Wales. 816,000 (65%) of these used Manchester. A further 263,000 used Liverpool John Lennon Airport. With both Manchester and Liverpool accounting for 86% of air passenger movements from North Wales, it is clear that North Wales is heavily reliant on Manchester Airport as an international gateway.


3.2 Strategic access routes between North Wales and the North West of England are the A55, and the main rail line from Chester to Holyhead. The A55 is a trunk road on the national network, and predominantly to dual carriageway standard. It connects to the North West motorway network at Chester, initially onto the M53, and then onto the M56 direct to Manchester Airport. The rail line links the major towns North Wales between Holyhead and Chester, and then onto Manchester. The line is not electrified, and diesel express trains are operated on this route by Arriva Trains Wales to Manchester, and by Virgin Trains to London. There is no direct train service to Manchester Airport. Passengers that want to use rail to travel to Manchester Airport have to change trains at Manchester Piccadilly or Crewe.


3.3 The majority of journeys between North Wales and Manchester Airport are made by private car and minicab. Less than 6% use rail or coach, and rail is the largest public transport mode with 4.5% of trips. 21% of trips are by private hire taxi, and a family friend or relative drops off 29%. The remainder mainly park and fly using one of the airport car parks.

3.4 The modal choices exhibited by North Wales passengers are heavily influenced by the convenient access to the strategic road and motorway network linking North Wales with Manchester Airport. The enhancement of the A55 and its link to the M56 has made it very easy and quick to drive to Manchester Airport, especially if the journey is off peak. A typical road journey between Manchester Airport and Llandudno will take approximately 1 hour 20 minutes. In contrast, the same journey made by rail will take approximately 2 hours 35 minutes, and involve a change of train at Manchester Piccadilly.


4.1 Manchester Airport's strategy is to encourage and support airport access trips by public transport, and to limit the growth in private hire taxi and "kiss and fly" drop off trips. The latter generate four vehicle trips for every return air journey, as one vehicle movement on each leg is usually made empty, where as "park and fly" generates only two trips. The dominance of drop off and private taxis by Manchester passengers has been identified as a significant factor in peak time congestion on the Airport road system and forecourts.

4.2 Manchester Airport generates over 80,000 vehicle movements a day[3], with the majority (80%) coming from the M56 motorway. 24% of vehicle movements come from the Western section of the M56, and will include journeys from North Wales. There are planned highway improvements in the vicinity of the airport, but they will not add significantly to high way capacity. Manchester is strategically dependent on the motorway network. However, capacity on the M56 is a major strategic issue. The motorway is at capacity during peak periods in the vicinity of the airport. Growth in airport business will generate more road traffic, so it is imperative that the airport continues to develop its public transport service links if it is to continue to service demand from its core catchment area in the North of England, and North Wales.

4.3 Over 100 million has been invested in airport's public transport facilities over the last 15 years. The rail link opened in 1993, and a third rail platform[4] is due to open on 14 December 2008. The original rail station was extensively redeveloped to create a ground transport interchange opening in 2003. The new interchange brought together all public transport modes at a single location at the heart of the airport.


5.1 Rail is the most significant public transport mode used by Manchester Airport passengers. However, it is only used by 4.5% of passengers from Wales, about half the average of all trips to Manchester Airport. Studies, and experience gained from developing existing airport services has shown that rail performs best when passengers have access to regular direct train services into the airport. The Transpennine Express rail franchise now operated by First Group has demonstrated that it is possible to significantly increase numbers of Manchester Airport passenger using its services to major destinations in Northern England. Transpennine Express has doubled the number Manchester Airport passengers it carries between 2004 (the start of the franchise) and 2008. It now carries 1.6 million passengers a year out of the total 2.5 million Manchester Airport rail passengers[5].

5.2 Creating a timetable based on a frequent direct service with limited stops and using high quality modern rolling stock has stimulated the growth in rail passengers to Manchester Airport. York for example, has a half hourly train service to Manchester Airport, offering a competitive journey time (when compared to road) of 1 hour 5 minutes with only four or five intermediate stops, and a rail modal share of 51%.

5.3 In comparison, the rail journey to Manchester Airport from Llandudno, a similar distance to one between York and Manchester Airport performs significantly worse. It is used by less than 5% of Manchester Airport passengers. Its journey time of 2 hours 35 minutes is uncompetitive when compared to the road journey that takes only 1 hour 20 minutes. There are approximately fifteen stops alone between Manchester and Llandudno, followed by a change of train at Manchester Piccadilly to reach the airport.

5.4 Critically the first departure from Llandudno leaves at 06:39, with a connection at Manchester, the earliest a passenger could arrive would be around 09:15. Approximately 40% of Manchester passengers depart on flights before 10:00. Allowing two hours for check-in, it is unlikely that the current rail service from Wales will be a viable option for any passenger wanting to fly from Manchester in the morning.

5.5 Whilst there is undoubtedly a market for a good direct rail service to Manchester Airport to North Wales, the prospect of introducing an additional Manchester Airport service in the near future is slim. The airport rail station is operating at capacity with nine trains per hour. This is despite the availability of a third rail platform from 14th December 2008. The initial purpose of the third platform is improving performance and reliability on airport services, and additional capacity to hold longer trains.

5.6 A number of airport rail service enhancements were modelled in the planning phase of the third platform project, including extending the Arriva Trains Wales North Wales to Manchester train through to Manchester Airport. This service had potentially the largest impact on air passenger catchment. But, no new airport train services have been proposed so far as there are potential performance disbenefits arising from adding an additional train service to the airport timetable. However, this may be reviewed in the light of operating experience with the new platform, and the implementation of the new rail timetable following completion of the West Coast Main Line upgrade work in December 2008.

5.7 Efficient and effective use of rail capacity in the Manchester area is a critical problem. The Central Manchester Rail Hub is widely acknowledged as a capacity bottleneck affecting rail performance throughout the North of England. Government has recognised this, and has asked Network Rail to undertake a study into the Manchester Hub, and potential solutions to alleviate the constraints. Whilst the Manchester Hub priority schemes are likely to deal with issues in the centre of Manchester, developing the Manchester Airport Western Rail Link opens the way to further enhancements that have a wider regional benefit and significance.

5.8 The Western Rail Link[6] is an extension of the existing airport rail spur to connect with the Altrincham to Chester Rail Line west of Manchester Airport. The Western Rail Link will increase capacity by making the airport rail station a through running line, thereby avoiding the need to turn trains around. With a Western Rail Link it will be possible to run trains from North Wales and Chester direct to Manchester Airport without having to run through Manchester first, potentially saving fifteen to twenty minutes off the journey time. There are no plans to construct the Western Link at present. However, Manchester Airport has safeguarded the route through the airport, and the alignment of the third rail platform is suitable for a future western extension.


6.1 National Express is the only operator to provide a coach service between North Wales and Manchester Airport. However, there are only two direct services a day, and journey times are long. Air passengers, for the reasons outlined earlier for rail, make only light use of the services.

6.2 The Manchester Airport Ground Transport Plan highlights the potential for new airport coach services, particularly to the west of Manchester Airport where operators can take advantage of the easy access to the Motorway network serving the North West, Midlands and North Wales. We are disappointed that more new coach or interurban bus services have not developed in recent years despite investment (over 30 million) to develop a new bus and coach facility within its multi modal transport interchange, The Station. This provides an airport quality waiting and interchange facility that is attractive to both passengers and operators.

6.3 The barriers to new airport coach services are most likely to centre on the short-term commercial risks that lie with the operators rather than infrastructure or regulatory barriers. The A55-M53-M56 route has made Manchester easily accessible from North Wales by car or taxi. The availability of a fast direct trunk road and motorway from North Wales linked to a high quality interchange and terminus at the airport ought to provide the right conditions to run a competitive coach or limited stop inter urban bus service.

6.4 We have evaluated opportunities for new coach services with operators (although not specifically for North Wales) running west from Manchester Airport, and believe that in the medium to long term these services have good prospects, both commercially and for modal switch away from the private car. However, in the short term the high start up costs, and likelihood that revenues in the first years will not cover operating costs is making operators reluctant to take the financial risk associated with starting any new coach service.


7.1 In 2007 there were 1.25 million air passengers from North Wales, 65% of these (816,000) used Manchester Airport. North Wales is therefore heavily reliant on airports in the North of England for access to both European and long haul international flights.

7.2 The majority of passengers make the airport journey by private car or taxi. The progressive development of the A55-M53-M56 route has made Manchester Airport very accessible by road. However, development public transport links and services have not matched that of the strategic road network. North Wales is poorly served by rail and coach services to Manchester Airport in comparison with other regions in the airport's catchment area. However, North Wales is and will continue to be a significant region in the Manchester Airport catchment. The North Wales Market for air travel does provide enough critical mass to support better rail and coach links to Manchester Airport. And, with the right interventions, these should improve in the future.

7.3 Recent enhancements to the rail network: the Manchester Airport third rail platform, and West Coast Main Line Modernisation may enable a better rail service for air passengers in the future. However, lack of rail capacity and congestion in the Manchester Rail Hub is a serious barrier to unlocking rail's potential.

7.4 Road access to Manchester Airport is good, and the A55-M53-M56 route should provide the right operating conditions to support a regular coach or inter urban bus service. The barriers appear to be short term funding during the initial years. If these can be overcome, then the medium to long-term viability for these is promising.

November 2008


[1] Source CAA Air Passenger Survey for 2007 for Manchester, Liverpool, Heathrow, Stansted, Gatwick, Luton, Humberside and Doncaster. Birmingham passengers calculated from CAA 2006 survey

[2] Source CAA 2007 Air Passenger Survey for Manchester Airport.

[3] Manchester Airport Ground Transport Plan, and Airport Master Plan to 2030

[4] 15 million project with funding from Network Rail, Northern Way, Greater Manchester Passenger Transport Executive, and EU Trans European Networks Programme

[5] Source First Transpennine Express

[6] Manchester Airport Ground Transport Plan and Airport Master Plan to 2030