‘Don’t ignore our regional airports’

Rise 2011-The Business Week, held at the De Vere Hotel, Blackpool. From the National Apprenticeship Service (from left), Paula Gibson, Claire Blott and Sally Robinson.
Rise 2011-The Business Week, held at the De Vere Hotel, Blackpool. From the National Apprenticeship Service (from left), Paula Gibson, Claire Blott and Sally Robinson.
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THE head of Blackpool Airport has said it has a part to play in the creation of a new transport network brought about by the arrival of a high-speed railway.

Paul Rankin, chief executive of the Squires Gate terminal, warned against ignoring the role of regional airports as plans are drawn up to create the high-speed network which would bring 250mph trains to the North West through Manchester.

He was speaking on the opening day of the Rise 2011 business week, organised by the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce, at the De Vere Heron’s Reach hotel in the resort on Monday.

Sir Brian Briscoe, chairman of High Speed 2, the Government-appointed company set up to bring about the high-speed plans, which he said would see a “spur” rail connecting the high-speed line from Manchester with the West Coast Mainline in Lancashire.

Mr Rankin said: “The aviation industry is in support of a high-speed rail network, however, that should be complimentary to the airport network we already have.

“Blackpool is a small player in that network but it’s a very important part as far as Lancashire is concerned.

“It’s important to think about how the region links up, not just with the big city centres, but also with other parts of the network.”

The event, which kicked off the week culminating with the annual BIBAs awards at the Blackpool Tower Ballroom on Friday night, also heard Lancashire and Blackpool Tourist Board chief executive Mike Wilkinson talk up the importance of visitor cash to the county’s economy.

He said he wanted to see the industry, which pumps £3bn into the county every year, made a key part of Lancashire’s recovery plan.

The chief executive added: “The tourism industry is predicted to grow by 60 per cent in the next 10 years, bringing 264,000 new jobs and I am sure Lancashire wants to see some of those jobs.”

David Andrews, managing director of Poulton-based equestrian surface manufacturer, Andrews Bowen, took part in the event’s debate on the importance of getting more businesses exporting to overseas markets.

He said it was looking to grow the amount of turnover it generated from overseas sales beyond the 40 per cent currently created.

The managing director said: “We see the marketplace becoming even more global and we’re feeling a lot more confident about going into the global marketplace.”