The government was today urged by Manchester Airports Group to take swift action on a new aviation policy following approval of a third runway at Heathrow.

The call came from the boss of the airport group as it reported a 6.6% rise in half-year earnings [EBITDA] to £215.9 million.

The result for the period to September 30 came as group-wide passenger numbers increased by 7.7% to 32 million.

Manchester airport is now serving more than 25 million passengers a year for the first time in its history and MAG-owned Stansted is handling over 24 million breaking its previous record set in 2007.

Chief executive Charlie Cornish said: “Our airports will continue to be amongst the most significant drivers of economic growth in their regions, as spare capacity enables them to grow more quickly than other airports.

“With the decision on Heathrow now made, government must quickly commit to developing a new aviation policy that will maximise these opportunities for both the country as a whole and the regions that our airports serve.

“The short-term priority for government must be to make the most of the runways we already have in the 10-15 year period before any new runway is ready and we are calling on them to support faster rail services to Stansted and reduce aviation taxes to encourage new connections from Manchester, particularly to key long haul markets.”

He added: “MAG’s business strategy has a long-term focus and is based on resilient foundations. This will put MAG in a strong position as the UK leaves the EU, a process which will highlight the importance of international connectivity to the UK’s future.

“Our strategy to drive top-line growth, improve efficiency and broaden our mix of business will continue and in the coming year we will ensure that we remain focussed on delivering further profitable growth.

“As the country prepares to enter a new era, we will be working closely with government and the rest of our industry to put in place a framework that will ensure the UK has the very best connections to the rest of the world – something that is fundamental building block for a modern, trading economy.

“At no point have the excellent links that this country’s airports provide been more vital to the nation’s future prosperity and economic growth.”