The Government announced a little while ago that the extra runway in the south east should be at Heathrow – the (in)famous Heathrow third runway. This implied that Gatwick would not get Government support to expand.
But Gatwick has developed a plan to get a second runway operational without needing to be the “official” extra runway in the south east – and the extra Gatwick runway is likely to be operational long before Heathrow’s third runway.
It turns out Gatwick has an existing “standby” runway that runs parallel to the current main runway. They had pledged not to use it for the first 40 years of Gatwick’s lifetime – but that expires later this year. The plan is to bring this standby runway into operation. The airport could then provide for up to 70 million passengers per year, an increase of around 50% from current levels.
The amount of work needed is not significant – some more taxi routes are needed around the edge of the current runway, and the standby runway needs to be extended by 12 metres to the north to meet international aviation standards. All of this can happen within the current boundaries of Gatwick airport.
The airport would remain a two-terminal operation, and noise levels would remain about the same. The cost would be entirely paid for privately by the airport owner – no public money is needed. The cost of the second Gatwick runaway, at around £500m, is around 1/30th the cost of the Heathrow third runway in any case.
I support these plans. It would be very useful for Croydon to have extra airport capacity just a 30 minute drive from Purley (in normal traffic) or a 15 minute train ride from East Croydon. But if they go ahead I do want to see Gatwick make financial contributions towards improving the M23 and A23, and also the Brighton Mainline. Extra traffic and train passengers will be generated (albeit mostly outside the rush hour) and it is right that Gatwick helps with meeting the costs of better infrastructure. I will keep you updated on progress with this project.