DURHAM Tees Valley airport needs a public transport hub similar to those at Newcastle and Manchester airports if it is compete for passengers, its owners have claimed.

Peel Group, which owns the struggling airport, near Darlington, made its call for infrastructure improvements days after a report showed Teesside Airport station served just 14 passengers in a whole year.

The comments from Peel Group came as the leader of Darlington Borough Council weighed in to the debate about Britain’s least-visited station, describing it as ‘the Ryanair of train stations’.

Councillor Bill Dixon said the problem with the rail station lay in its location, almost a mile from the airport terminal, and said he was surprised that as many as 14 people had used it.

Proposals have been put forward as part of the Tees Valley Metro development to move the rail halt much closer to the airport terminal, although no firm plans have been outlined.

Peter Nears, strategic planning director with the Peel Group, said inadequate transport links meant Durham Tees Valley was poorly placed compared to some of its rivals.

Mr Nears said: “Obviously, improving accessibility is important both for the airport and the public and we are aware of developments which have provided excellent links elsewhere — for example the Metro Link to Newcastle Airport and the rail station facilities at Manchester Airport.

“It has been recognised for a long time that the current halt is not suitable and we are aware that there are proposals to include a new station as part of plans to improve local rail services.

“These proposals have been in the pipeline for a long time and we would very much welcome early progress.”

Speaking during a debate at Darlington town hall, Coun Dixon said he felt sorry for local people who wanted to use both the station and the airport, but couldn’t find services to suit their needs.

He added: “In fairness, passengers deserted the airport before the airlines did and that’s a challenge. I don’t know how we will get through it. Next time we are schlepping to Newcastle, Leeds/Bradford or Manchester, we have to think why.

“As for the railway station, it’s like a Ryanair destination – the trains only stop somewhere near where they are supposed to. It’s probably a mile from the airport – I’m surprised 14 people made the journey.”