Work has begun on Manchester Airport's milestone terminal project, which will see a large part of the airport reinvented and capacity significantly increased. The £1 billion transformation program was officially launched July 21 when the Secretary of State for Transport, the Rt Hon Chris Grayling MP, visited to witness work commence.

Having existed largely on the proceeds of leisure flights and regional services for much of the past 40 years, Manchester has had something of a renaissance lately by attracting significant long-haul routes and major airlines, giving passengers in the north of the U.K. an alternative to the crowded hub airports of London.

"Aviation is central to our future prosperity as we leave the European Union," Grayling said. "As a global, trading nation we want to build on the great industry we have today and create opportunities for people up and down the country. Our new aviation strategy will look beyond the new runway at Heathrow and sets out a comprehensive long-term plan for U.K. aviation. It will support jobs and economic growth across the whole of the UK."

The new terminal will be developed on the site of the existing Terminal 2, creating a much-enlarged space for parking, check-in, security and passport control, alongside new shopping areas, food and drink options and new premium lounges. Reflecting the realities of air travel today, the check-in areas will heavily focus on self-service machines, and space for security screening will be significantly larger than at present.

To allow the terminal to expand and add more gates, parts of the existing Terminal 1 will be sequentially demolished, and new piers built on to Terminal 2.

Manchester Airport announced this week that a record 27 million passengers used it over the past 12-month period — a 12 percent increase over the previous year, with a corresponding increase in its financial results.

Alongside multiple daily Airbus A380 superjumbos operated by Emirates, Manchester has also seen new services from Cathay Pacific, Hainan Airlines, Oman Air and Singapore Airlines, along with new direct services to the U.S. from Thomas Cook and Virgin Atlantic. This is in addition to the strong leisure presence that has never gone away, albeit now largely served by low-cost airlines.

The 10-year development plan for the new terminal will bolster the airport's new position as a global hub and attract more services and passengers, it is hoped.

"Today marks a significant moment in the history of Manchester Airport and demonstrates the confidence that we have in the long-term future of both the North and the U.K. economy," Charlie Cornish, CEO of MAG, said. "This is the largest private investment that has been made in the region for some time and the increased connectivity that it will deliver will enable it to become one of the most accessible and productive regions in Europe."