Passengers using Southend airport have risen by 37% this year, with numbers set to soar further as Ryanair starts operations from next spring.

The airport’s parent company Stobart Group has accelerated a previously announced £30 million to £40 million investment plan.

This is mainly in relation to its franchised airline business, to enhance the value of the airport through an increase in sustainable and profitable passenger numbers, the company said in a trading statement this morning.

“At London Southend airport, the group has focused on improving awareness through branding and marketing, route development, and airline incentive deals to accelerate its growth,” Stobart said.

“The introduction of Ryanair flights in spring 2019 is the next step in the growth of our London airport.

“This significant long-term partnership agreement is expected to result in at least one million additional passengers in the first year and more than five million in the first five years.”

A new agreement with The Restaurant Group to introduce six new food and drink brands to the airport “will help maximise the commercial value of these passengers”.

Stobart added: “The agreement with Ryanair gives us further confidence that we will deliver on our aim to welcome five million passengers a year to the airport by 2022.

“The investment in the franchised operations from London Southend airport has contributed successfully to the attraction of other airlines to the airport.

“The results of the aviation division for the full year, excluding the investment in the franchise operations, are expected to be broadly in line with expectations.”

The aviation, energy and rail business is due to publish its interim results for the six months to August 31 on October 24.

Group CEO Warwick Brady said: “We are reviewing all aspects of the Group to ensure we are well placed to deliver the ambitious growth targets set by the board to double the value of the business.

“We are confident that we can meet our commitment to shareholders to unify the business and provide the framework for the delivery of the company’s strategy to the benefit of all stakeholders.”