JLA move to boost business from Wales
Feb 7 2008 by Tony McDonough, Liverpool Daily Post

LIVERPOOL John Lennon Airport’s chairman said improved rail and bus links were essential to attract more passengers from North Wales.

Robert Hough said North Wales a was a key catchment area for the regional airport, and one that airport owners Peel Holdings was keen to tap into.

He said about 5.4% of passengers through Liverpool John Lennon Airport in the first nine months of last year were from Wales, up from 4% in 1999, with North Wales accounting for around 200,000 of the 220,000 Welsh travellers.

“We want people in our North Wales catchment area to see Liverpool as their local regional airport,” said Mr Hough.

“We want to create better connections between North Wales and the airport. We would like to see better bus links and secondly we would like to open the Halton Curve which would enable a train from Llandudno to travel directly to Liverpool South Parkway, the station close to the airport.

“We are talking to Network Rail and others about this – 10% of our passengers get to the airport by public transport, and we would like to see that increase to 20%.”

Mr Hough said a £100m investment by Peel Holdings into a new terminal and other facilities at the airport since 1997 had made Liverpool the fastest-growing airport in the UK over the past decade, with passenger numbers up from 700,000 to 5.5m.

The airport’s three major carriers, easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air, have opened up new markets across Europe for Liverpool, with Wizz helping to bring an influx of Polish workers to Wrexham and other towns across North Wales.

A master plan has been drawn up for the further development of the airport, said Mr Hough, which examines the case for a longer runway to take jets capable of reaching the American west coast and other long haul destinations.

“Our challenge is to decide whether that is the best investment when you have Manchester, itself a very successful airport, just 35 miles away, or whether we should stick to our knitting with point-to-point services to Europe.”

The airport is also keen to develop its air freight business out of Liverpool.

Mr Hough, who is also deputy chairman of Peel Holdings, questioned whether the Welsh tourist authorities were making the most of promotional opportunities available at Liverpool airport to tell people arriving at the airport of the scenic and cultural attractions of North Wales, on the city’s doorstep, in the same way that the Lake District already does.