The recently elected Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, has visited Gatwick to hail the airport’s decision to boost its investment in the airport by an additional £200 million, and to back its bid for expansion.
Sadiq Khan underlined his support for the construction of a second runway at the airport, calling on the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, to support the capital’s economy by making a final decision on airport expansion in the South East a top priority, and he urged that decision to be in favour of Gatwick.
The £200 million increase in investment just announced by Gatwick will be spent transforming, revitalising and improving the existing airport – and will bring the total investment over the coming five years to £1.2 billion. The total invested in improving the airport since the airport was sold out of the old BAA monopoly (2009) through to 2021 will be £2.5 billion.
The extra £200m will fund expansion of both the North Terminal and South Terminal departure lounges, and additional aircraft parking stands and optimisation of taxiways, among may other projects, and will help create and sustain jobs in the Gatwick Diamond.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “Gatwick is the front door to London for millions of visitors to our city and I salute their decision to spend another £200m on improvements to the airport.
“The new Prime Minister has a very important decision to make regarding new airport capacity, and I urge her to rule as swiftly as possible in favour of a second runway at Gatwick, which would bring substantial economic benefits.”
Gatwick Airport CEO Stewart Wingate said: “As Gatwick rapidly approaches full capacity, this increased investment paves the way for our second runway project. As we enter a new era for Britain, we must be agile and decisive as a country to show the world that we are open for business.
“It is now clear that only Gatwick can deliver the runway Britain needs to boost international competitiveness and trading links at a time when it is most needed, and we can do that before 2025.”
The decision on a new runway could be taken this year. New Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has said that a decision is a priority, but that it will not be taken before or during the summer recess. This points to a decision in September or October, which would be welcome.
Sadiq Khan also called on the Government to strip Govia Thameslink Railway of their franchise as he is appalled at the “unceasing misery” being inflicted on tens of thousands of passengers by the operator of Southern Rail.
He urged the Department for Transport to take temporary responsibility for operation of the Southern rail services, and asked them to work with his team on putting in place a speedier timetable for the transfer of suburban rail services to Transport for London.
The Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said: “I am appalled by the unceasing misery that Southern Rail has inflicted on tens of thousands of passengers, and I share their outrage at the lack of action to address it. Passengers are paying thousands of pounds for a service that rather than being ‘turn up and go’ has become ‘turn up and hope’. Their frustration at such a disgraceful level of service is obvious and it is justified.
“This utter mess is now an embarrassment to our city, it is an insult to hard-working Londoners who pay their fares and it must be fixed. That is why I am calling on the Government to strip Southern of its franchise and take over the temporary responsibility of running these services.”
He used the opportunity to push for more control more quickly over transport in outer London to TfL, saying: “Ministers need to put in place a new and faster timetable for handing over inner suburban rail services to Transport for London, so that we can provide passengers with the improved services, stations and fares they deserve. My team is ready and willing to work with the Government on transferring responsibility for those services to Transport for London in a far speedier fashion.”
This rail service crisis certainly points to the need for a more co-ordinated public sector approach to managing sub-regional transport. If there were a “Transport for the South East” agency then disputes such as the one currently destroying Southern’s service might be less common, and easier to resolve.
Stripping the franchise might not be the right move, as the RMT union has certainly played a part in failing to resolve the dispute. But Government support and pressure – on both sides of the dispute – would be welcome. The service is appalling, and must be made better.