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this are two key parts of a £130 million ‘China cluster’, named Wuhan Square and Shenzhen Gardens. It is hoped that they will attract ‘advanced manufacturing’ aviation and nuclear industries. Chinese president Xi Jinping gave the


project his blessing in October, while announcing the launch of flights from Manchester to Beijing from Hainan Air- lines next June. “As other international companies see the benefit of the Airport City location, we are sure it will have a symbiotic relationship with route develop- ment,” said O’Toole.


Osborne hopes this will be the anchor


for investment throughout the region. In September, he was in Chengdu brandish- ing his ‘Northern Pitchbook’, a catalogue of 20 investment opportunities worth £24 billion. These included a 40-mile ‘Atlantic Gateway’ corridor of opportunity, linking Liverpool and Manchester, and redevelop- ing the former Astrazeneca site at Alderley Park into a bioscience hub. TFN’s Brown is keen to point out that


it won’t all go Manchester’s way. “There are other airports, and they play a role for business, so we have to make sure we have a proportionate investment plan


for them,” he says, adding that “there’s no doubt Manchester is the hub”. There’s an acceptance of this over at


Newcastle airport and Graeme Mason, its planning and corporate affairs director, says he’s “very supportive” of the Northern Powerhouse. He adds, however: “From a transport point of view, there needs to be a recognition that the North East is further away from the main Liverpool- Manchester-Leeds corridor.” Newcastle and Manchester airports’ catchments (as measured by 90 minutes’


travelling time) do not overlap, so there is scope for Newcastle to grow. It is already well connected to key hubs, but Mason has ambitions to make the seasonal New York route year-round and to persuade Emirates to fly double daily. Meanwhile, more mundane concerns include upgrad- ing the Metro link and improving parts of the A1.


Angel of the North? Chancellor George Osborne


“While I think the report next March will be very important, it’s not necessar- ily the thing that will trigger some of the improvements we’re hoping for,” he says. There is also a job to do with convincing the public. A Com Res poll found that 44 per cent of those in the North had never heard of the Northern Powerhouse, but Brown believes there is a simple way to overcome this. “You turn it into tangibles – you don’t always have to explain a concept if people can see the results.” Fancy Chinese business parks might be one thing, but what might swing it for the day-to-day traveller (business or otherwise) will probably be getting a seat on a new train that manages to do more than crawl along. Until firm proposals are announced, it’s a question of travelling in hope, rather than expectation.


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