TWELVE months on from the moment I rescued Teesside Airport and saved it from closure, we have just had the most significant announcement yet. In just a matter of weeks, people will be able to fly from Teesside to London City, Dublin, Belfast, Cardiff, Southampton and a revised Aberdeen service, along with a route to the Isle of Man in the summer. This will mean nearly 200,000 extra passengers a year going through our airport.

Even before Friday’s announcement of new flights, we had made great progress. We appointed an excellent new operator, brought back the much-loved Teesside International name, seen the return of holiday flights for the first time in five years, the first flights to Spain in seven years, and the best KLM flight numbers to Amsterdam for 14 years.

But ever since I bought the airport, one of the biggest and most frequent questions I’ve been asked from businesses and local people has been when will direct flights to London return.

The new twice-daily service means we will be more connected to the capital than ever before, which will be hugely important to our local economy, and the investment that will create the good quality, well-paid jobs we all want to see come to Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool.

That’s on top of the raft of other brilliant flights announced last week, which means Teesside now has fantastic connections to all corners of the UK. I know the Dublin and Belfast flights will be hugely popular with people planning weekends away.

And don’t forget, our airport continues to serve more than 200 destinations across the globe via Schiphol, so you really can go worldwide from Teesside.

We only got the keys to the airport in March, and I pledged to introduce ten extra routes by 2022. Fast-forward ten months and we are on the right track to reach that target well before anyone expected us to do so.

The latest commitment from Eastern Airways is a huge vote of confidence in our airport and our region. They share my vision for fantastic transport connections and have worked with the airport for years. They really understand exactly what our local people and businesses will love.

And alongside all the excitement of these new flights starting in the coming weeks, we have also got the return of the Tees Valley Airshow to look forward to in the summer. The previous airshows were hugely popular and attracted people from across the region and further afield as well.

This isn’t job done, it is the next stage of our rescue plan, and there will be plenty of opportunities to expand and increase flights even further.

Our airport has truly taken off over the last 12 months. I expect we can reach even greater heights over the months and years ahead.

In 2017 I promised the people of Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool that I’d save our airport from closure, and I delivered. I promised I’d bring back the Teesside International name, and I delivered. And I promised to secure more flights, and now I’ve delivered on this promise too.

lBen Houchen is Tees Valley Mayor.