Gatwick ahead?

As Gatwick unveils a campaign – ‘Gatwick Obviously’ – to step up its case for expansion, reports suggest that it is moving ahead in the race to be allowed an extra runway.

Emerging findings from new research that will be submitted to the Airports Commission in May show that with a second runway at Gatwick there would be more connections to more destinations than with a third runway at Heathrow.

Work led by Sir Terry Farrell (who will speak at this year’s Gatwick Diamond Economic Growth Forum) also shows how expansion at Gatwick would provide better balanced growth for London, the region and the UK. With the majority of traffic shared between London’s two major airports, the economic benefits would be more evenly distributed across London and the South East and have significant regenerative benefits for the Gatwick Diamond, including in Croydon and Brighton.

The work suggests that an expanded Gatwick would help the UK connect to 27 more destinations than a third runway at Heathrow, and as part of the network of airports surrounding London, would cater for 11 million more passengers each year by 2050 than a three-runway Heathrow.

Gatwick today also committed to bringing the economic benefits of an additional runway as fast as possible to the UK. Subject to Government approval and assuming quick decision making, Gatwick believes it can start construction of a new runway before the end of the next parliament in 2020, with the first flights taking off by the end of the following one in 2025. This is important, as the capacity crunch is happening now. The airport that can deliver quickest scores points in Sir Howard Davies’ decision making.

Gatwick say their plan delivers the greatest economic return for the UK at the lowest environmental cost. Certainly it would affect less people than any expansion at Heathrow, and would cause less damage to natural habitats and endangered wetlands than an airport in the foggy Thames Estuary.

Gatwick seems to be winning many of the battles along the way to a decision. Mayor of London Boris Johnson said at his recent presentation of his plans for the redevelopment of the Heathrow site into something with as many homes as Brighton and as many jobs as Cambridge that “The smart money seems to be on Gatwick at the moment”. This is despite his mother in law living on the flightpath.

Should Gatwick be allowed to expand, and that has to be regarded as a greater possibility now than when Sir Howard published his shortlist in December 2013, then the Gatwick Diamond economy could profit considerably. We could see another 40,000 jobs perhaps. We would need more homes for a growing population to live in, but those that live here already could look forward to a wealthier future, as long as we plan carefully and properly for that.