Tom Allett attended the unveiling of Gatwick’s new look North Terminal.
I’d guess that every airport watcher knows that Gatwick, 28 miles (45km) south of London, operates the world’s busiest single runway operation. It is Britain’s second busiest airport for passenger numbers, currently accommodating some 32 million people flying to 200 destinations in 90 countries.
Most people see it as serving the leisure rather than business market, but moves are underway to try and change that perception.
As the largest shareholder, Global Infrastructure Partners’ (GIP’s) 2009 takeover of Gatwick has brought a certain ‘buzz’ to the London airport.
After years of seemingly limited investment, the airport’s two terminals were beginning to have a tired look about them and it gave the impression that the airport’s development had stagnated.
Now GIP has created a new identity to underline the change of ownership and has grasped the opportunity to enhance the airport’s wider image.
Some £1.2 billion (US$1.87bn) is being spent on airside and landside infrastructure improvements and the new-owner, new-start mindset has certainly provided a morale boost for many airport staff. It is not that staff have any ‘axe to grind’ with their former employers – indeed many owe their career opportunities to them – it is simply that if the owner can be seen to be making a significant investment in ‘your’ segment of the business, it gives everyone associated with it a certain spring in their step. Today, Gatwick certainly seems to be benefiting from this feel-good factor.
November 17 marked the official unveiling of Gatwick’s £73 million (US$113m) extension of the North Terminal that will enable it to handle 29 million passengers per year by 2020.
The project involved creating new arrivals and departures areas, and linking them to new baggage systems. The building’s external frontage was extended, primarily to the east and also a little to the north
The eastern end of the building has been extended by approximately 134,549 sq ft (12,500m2) to provide additional check-in and baggage reclaim capacity. There are now 18 extra check-in desks, making a total of 144 of which 70 are self-service options. The baggage system’s in-line screening design and installation work was carried out by Logan Teleflex and its consortium partner Siemens. Four new reclaim belts were provided in order to significantly cut the length of time passengers spend waiting for their luggage; a vital part of the travellers’ overall experience.
Three of the reclaim belts serve international arrivals while the other handles domestic flights. The baggage work carried out to date is part of a £22 million (US$34m) order awarded to the Logan/Siemens consortium.
Morgan Sindall was the lead construction company for the North Terminal extension. Having worked with BAA on many previous projects, Morgan Sindall effectively began working with GIP as soon as the new owner took over, and the construction specialists won a £50 million (US$78m). Morgan Sindall’s Director of Aviation, Michael O’Callaghan, told Airports International that his company had launched its bid for the North Terminal extension contract in November 2009 and won it four months later. A core group of about 45 Morgan Sindall employees led a wider team of approximately 480 staff, including contractors, throughout the project. Major international airports must continue their day-to-day operations during the construction process and Mr O’Callaghan said the timescale of the project presented the greatest challenge: “There were large penalties for finishing late,” he recalled.
The number of situations where work was restricted because of airport operational requirements were “too many to remember,” he said. “With such busy airports there is always a need to be flexible and change what you are doing on something approaching a daily basis in order to maintain the airport’s routine operation, but we delivered it on time and on budget, so obviously we are very pleased with that.”
The company’s Managing Director of Construction, Stephen Scard, added: “We’re delighted to see the extension open and to have the opportunity to play a part in Gatwick’s future. It is important that the UK maintains a state-of-the-art airport infrastructure. The level of investment being made at Gatwick is evidence of the desire to put passengers first and ensure the UK has transport hubs that are the envy of the world.”
In July this year Morgan Sindall won a place on the construction framework that will enable it to compete with nine other competitors vying to win contracts to implement the next phase of the airport’s improvements. These include a broad range of tasks over the next four years, including the construction of new aircraft piers.
Mr Scard said: “We’re looking forward to the challenge of performing well on the framework and continuing to bring to bear our expertise and capability in aviation. We have a superb site safety record – over two million hours working airside without any reportable incidents – and understand the complex 24/7 operating environment that is presented by a 21st century international airport.”
Among next steps is the £32 million (US$50m) upgrade of the North Terminal’s baggage system. A Siemens/Logan consortium will work with Morgan Sindall to replace the whole system in the building’s main baggage hall. The existing six sorters will be replaced with just two which, the airport says, will make the system “more reliable, efficient and flexible.” Early bag store facilities will be installed to enable passengers to drop their luggage off as soon as they arrive at the airport which will surely be welcomed by countless passengers.
The North Terminal extension was opened by the former British Prime Minister, The Rt Hon Sir John Major KG CH, who unveiled a plaque to mark the event. Sir John said: “Airports are the ‘front door’ of the UK and, for visitors to Britain, their first impressions of our country are shaped by what they see and experience when they land. That is why the significant investment to improve arrivals infrastructure is so important.
“In recent months, Gatwick has established the first direct air link between Britain and Vietnam. New routes have been opened to Malaysia, Hong Kong, South Korea and China. More new routes will follow. All of this is good news – not just for Gatwick but for all of us in the UK.
“Gatwick will continue to compete with our European Union neighbours and the rising challenge from the new markets of Greater Asia. In improving its efficiency, Gatwick is contributing to economic growth and wellbeing across the United Kingdom and that is vital to our national interest.”
The extension of the North Terminal follows the completion of earlier work to rejuvenate its forecourt, and construct what the airport describes as a new “interchange” to deliver a modern new entrance into the terminal building.
In a change from its previous layout, arrival and departure areas are now on different levels in order to improve passenger wayfinding and movement. Passengers being dropped off outside the new entrance can choose to go up one of two moving walkways or lifts, where they will join passengers arriving off the new inter-terminal shuttle. From there, passengers all pass in the same direction through to the extended check-in area.
Passengers arriving home, or tourists entering the UK, will pass through arrivals on the ground floor and have direct route access into the adjacent car park and to car rental. The route also provides easy access to the airport’s taxi service or inter-terminal shuttle for those wishing to catch a train for their onward journey.
At the opening ceremony, Gatwick’s Chief Executive, Stewart Wingate, said: “It’s fair to say that passengers flying out of the North Terminal used to be greeted with a dated ’80s feel with little aesthetic appeal and confusing wayfinding. But that was the Gatwick of yesteryear. Today, the layout and design of the upgraded forecourt, interchange facilities and the expanded terminal building provide a much more positive first impression.
“This is all part of our £1.2 billion investment programme, which has a focus on improving the overall passenger experience of our airport, from the moment people arrive at the front door, check-in or pass through security to boarding their flight. We want passengers to spend as little time in queues or waiting for luggage as possible and we want them to enjoy their surroundings before they jet off for their holidays. That has been the focus of our work at the airport so far and there is still much more to come.”
Gatwick North Terminal Facts
- £475 million is being invested in the North Terminal to support a capacity increase.
- The extended terminal can accommodate an extra 4 million passengers annually
- £25 million has been invested on a new inter-terminal shuttle station and terminal entrance
- £17 million on 1,177 new short-stay car parking spaces next to the terminal
- £73 million has been invested to allow faster check-in, more space, improved wayfinding and more capacity at baggage collection in the arrivals hall
The 17 most important locations to benefit from GIP’s ongoing £1.1bn investment programme.
- Inter-terminal shuttle
- Baggage system
- Security search
- Multi-storey car park
- Additional pier service
- Landside concourse
- Security search
- Baggage system and Pier 1
- Departure lounge extension
- Immigration enhancements
- North West zone
- Runway resurfacing
- Taxiway improvements