Manchester Airports Group has called on government to make investment in northern rail infrastructure a priority.

Manchester airport is on course to handle 30 million passengers by the end of this financial year after seeing a 5.8% rise in May to 2.6 million.

Parent company MAG expects continued growth as it airports – including Stansted and East Midlands – enter the start of the summer season.

MAG wants ministers to recognise the “critical role” Manchester airport will play in driving northern growth and rebalancing the UK, and support that with commitments to improving rail connectivity.

The aviation strategy process gives the government the opportunity to set out a clear plan for Manchester to develop into the UK’s second hub airport, according to MAG.

This would enable all parts of the north of England to be connected via the proposed high-speed Northern Powerhouse Rail network to global destinations by attracting further key long-haul routes.

Manchester airport is part-way through the £1 billion transformation of its terminal and airfield infrastructure to help unlock spare capacity on its existing two runways.

Airport CEO Andrew Cowan, speaking ahead of government consultation on its Aviation 2050 Green Paper closing on June 20, said: “As we edge closer to the 30 million passenger mark, our role as the UK’s global gateway in the north becomes even clearer.

“Government has rightly recognised Manchester as a ‘national’ airport in its Aviation 2050 Green Paper and it is vital that is used as a platform to develop a proper understanding of our potential to drive economic growth and prosperity across the north.

“The are some key interventions only government can make, such as large-scale investment in transformative projects like Northern Powerhouse Rail and the reform of aviation taxes to help stimulate new long haul connections from gateways like Manchester.

“With the right support, coupled with our own £1 billion investment, Manchester airport can be an even greater engine of growth for the North by giving people and businesses access to the world’s most important markets.”

Stansted grew 2.1% year-on-year to handle a record 2.6 million passengers in May, but number fell by 3.1% at East Midlands to 500,685 over May last year.

This meant that MAG airports saw passenger growth of 3.3% last month.