A second runway at Gatwick can deliver improved services, lower air fares and more choice for passengers – as well as an environmental bonus, says the airport’s CEO Stewart Wingate
WINGATE Thank you all for coming – it’s been a fascinating discussion. Summing up [a response to] the views expressed, I think the case for additional capacity at Gatwick is all based on competition and choice. And with competition and choice, normally the outcome is better service levels, better information, better prices, and better choice. A network of competing airports with a vision into the future that has multiple two-runway airports is preferable to an over-reliance on one monopoly provider.
Strong economic case
After decades of delay and indecision, the business community is united on the issue of airport expansion in the south-east. Talking to business leaders up and down the country, there is a growing recognition that there is only one airport which can deliver for the whole of the UK. While the economic case for Gatwick is stronger than ever, the environmental hurdles for Heathrow remain as difficult to clear as they ever have been. That is why the government put off a decision again at the end of last year and, when it comes to choose, it is why Gatwick is the obvious choice.
As the debate over where to build the next runway has raged, Gatwick has been changing and growing. In March, we announced 20 new long-haul routes from Gatwick opening this year to cities on four continents, taking our total of long-haul connections to 50 and moving Gatwick into the premier league of European long-haul airports. London’s airports will need to handle 110 million more passengers per year by 2050. Most of this growth – around 60 million passengers – will be in Europe, a market dominated by low-cost carriers where Gatwick provides the lowest-cost and most efficient solution.
Gatwick has grown by 6.5 million passengers in the last four years – more than Heathrow, more than Stansted. This will continue, but we are rapidly running out of space. We are the world’s busiest single-runway airport by some distance. It’s clear that we need that second runway, and the UK needs it as well.
Gatwick can help ensure balanced growth across the UK. If we expand, we can deliver the capacity that is urgently required in the south-east, while embedding the principles of competition in the airport market, and not undermining the potential of other UK airports to grow. In contrast, an expanded, market-dominant Heathrow will inhibit regional airports’ potential to expand long-haul traffic, as airlines are forced to consolidate operations in one place.
Increasing capacity at Gatwick will connect London directly with more destinations, including in the emerging markets. Competition will also bring lower air fares, which will generate more direct traffic in all segments – short and long haul, leisure and business. Expanding Gatwick will cut Heathrow’s dominant market share from 52 per cent to 35 per cent by 2050, exposing it to full competition for the first time. The other major UK airports also do not want Heathrow to expand – they want to look to a future where they can attract more direct flights themselves rather than turning the clock back to the old monopoly in west London.
Gatwick’s rail connections have also been changing. We’ve recently seen the launch of a new fleet of Gatwick Express trains. Soon there will be a train heading to London every two-and-a-half minutes and the overall journey time to the City and Canary Wharf will be faster and more frequent than that from Heathrow.
Rail services will be extended to serve 175 stations directly. It is a rail revolution. Breakfast in Cambridge and dinner in San Francisco with just a single change? At Gatwick, yes we can. At the heart of the matter for government, however, is the issue of the environmental challenges and the impact on people. Heathrow was simply built in the wrong area – and the one thing that cannot change is its location. It adversely affects more people with noise than all the other major airports in Europe combined. Air quality around Heathrow is already at illegal levels because of airport operations and road traffic.
It defies common sense to think that Heathrow’s plans for a million more car journeys on a 16-lane M25 will actually improve the situation. That was why the government, quite rightly, delayed the decision again to look at these issues.
Of course expansion at Gatwick would adversely impact more of our neighbours by noise than are presently affected, but the numbers are a fraction of those at Heathrow, which would affect nearly 700,000 people. At Gatwick, that number is 36,000. And we are committed to doing all we can to minimise impacts.
Most importantly Gatwick has never breached legal air-quality limits and would not do so even with a second runway. Put simply, Gatwick’s second runway will deliver the UK the same number of passengers, the same number of long-haul routes, better UK and regional connections, and a huge economic boost, at a dramatically lower environmental impact and at less than half the cost of Heathrow – with no public subsidy.
Choose Gatwick and we will show that we can make these big infrastructure decisions without it being a stark choice between the economy and the environment. Expansion has been in a holding pattern for too long. Business wants a new runway. The momentum is with Gatwick. Let’s get on with it so the UK can finally get all of the benefits.
Read Gatwick’s overview of their proposal for a third runway here