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LONDON: Britain's Freight Transport Association (FTA) is lobbying politicians to back plans for an Enterprise Zone and road improvements at Belfast International Airport to encourage investment and prevent it losing ground to its competitors.

BIA is the third largest handler of airfreight in the UK outside of London, but rapid growth at Dublin Airport threatens to challenge its long-term future. FTA has written to Members of Parliament calling for the development of an Enterprise Zone to stimulate investment and road upgrades to improve access.

The number of passengers from Northern Ireland using Dublin Airport increased from 500,000 in 2013 to 864,000 in 2014. Continued growth could affect BIA's ability to attract long-haul flights, limiting its belly-hold freight operations. The sustainability of BIA's air cargo facility could also be threatened.

Seamus Leheny, FTA's Northern Ireland manager said: "Millions are being spent on attracting and retaining investment in high-end manufacturing such as pharmaceuticals and aircraft parts, which all rely on air freight in their supply chain.

"Urgent action is needed to ensure Belfast International Airport is an attractive prospect for investors and has the necessary infrastructure to support efficient air freight operations. Road improvements and the development of an Enterprise Zone would help achieve this aim."

BIA is Northern Ireland's only air cargo facility but operators could switch to Dublin if it becomes a cheaper option, impacting on local logistics firms and the wider economy said the FTA.

Leheny added: "As a designated Enterprise Zone BIA could offer a range of financial incentives for businesses like those in place at Manchester Airport, which was the first in the UK to develop an 'airport city'. FTA is calling on MPs to support BIA's proposals to help sustain its long-term future."

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