Gatwick Airport Limited is beginning detailed work on options for a new runway, despite its July 2012 statement claiming that plans were not yet in the running.
The work will be submitted to the Independent Commission on Aviation Connectivity, chaired by Sir Howard Davies. The airport says that its submission will be consistent with its commitment to the 1979 legal agreement with West Sussex County Council, which prohibits the construction of a new runway before 2019.
The work programme will reportedly look in detail at the implications of a new runway and will cover all issues which Gatwick anticipates will be relevant to the Commission and the eventual policy decision by the government on airport expansion. It will evaluate various runway options and assess key requirements, including environmental, surface access and economic impacts.
However, Gatwick – the busiest single-runway airport in the world – published its Masterplan in July 2012, which stated that the airport had plans to grow from its current 33 million passengers per annum (mppa) to 40 mppa without an additional runway.
At the time, CEO Stewart Wingate said in his opening statement for the document: “We have no current plans for a second runway at Gatwick and are focused on making the best use of our existing infrastructure.” The plan also stated: “At the same time, like any business, our plans need to cater for all eventualities. We do need to anticipate that, in the long term, a second runway at Gatwick may be needed.”
Now, following the airport’s latest announcement, Mr Wingate says: “Over the last three years we have transformed the airport, invested around £650 million [US $1.1bn] and have a strong track record for delivering key routes to growth markets. However, we must now look to the future when Gatwick will become full and outline its long-term role in ensuring London has an efficient and resilient airport system that creates the crucial connectivity London and the UK needs.”
He added: “I believe a new runway at Gatwick could be affordable, practical and give passengers a greater choice of routes to key markets. A new runway will allow Gatwick to compete and grow, increasing the choice available to passengers today. We have the space, capability and access to financial resources.
“There are clear practical advantages of a new runway at Gatwick. When compared with a third runway at Heathrow, we would have a significantly lower environmental impact whilst adding significantly more capacity. Stansted is half empty today, we already have much better surface transport links and feel our business case will be much stronger. As for the Estuary airport concepts, there are major questions on affordability, environmental issues and whether they are deliverable,” he said.