The chairman of a new public/private initiative with a remit to build closer ties between Manchester and India has spoken of positive discussions over the possibility of establishing a direct air link.
The Manchester-India Partnership (MIP) officially launched two weeks ago during a ceremony at the House of Commons. Its role is to strengthen trade, investment, cultural and educational ties with India.
One of MIP’s key goals is to see the establishment of direct air links to India, building on the fact that Manchester Airport is already the sixth largest European air gateway into the country, with more than 270,000 people within the catchment area already travelling there indirectly.
Partnership chairman Andrew Cowan, chief executive of Manchester Airport, said in a statement on Tuesday that securing a direct service was one of his number one priorities.
He wrote: “The business case is almost proven and it is fair to say we have had lots of encouraging dialogue already with a range of Indian airlines. We hope the formation of this partnership will contribute to these discussions becoming even more meaningful in the weeks and months ahead.”
Following the launch of a direct service linking Manchester and Beijing in 2016, export values increased by 265 per cent, with the value of goods shipped between Manchester Airport and China hitting £200m a month.
In addition, the route brought an additional £138m into Manchester’s visitor economy in the first year of operation, led to a doubling of Manchester’s inward investment pipeline, supported the formation of a range of partnerships between Manchester and China and helped boost international student numbers at the University of Manchester.
Mr Cowan believes similar benefits could be seen following the introduction of a direct air link between Manchester and India.