Gatwick Airport growth plans take shape

by Toby Fox Mon 24 June 2019, 11:56 am

Gatwick Airport outlined growth plans at the Gatwick Diamond Economic Summit, including high levels of investment by new owner Vinci, the likely content of its soon-to-be-published masterplan, and an intention to boost the local visitor economy.

In a video address, Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said construction firm Vinci planned to invest £1.1bn in the airport over the next five years.

That would match investment levels under previous owners, which reached £2.2bn over 10 years. He said despite uncertainty over Brexit that had slowed growth, the airport boasted a 20% increase in long-haul passengers last year.

New routes had opened to cities and states including Doha, Shanghai, Taiwan, Hong Kong, San Francisco, Miami, Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. 

Wingate said the airport’s masterplan for growth is due to be published soon, and will suggest three options including technological enhancements to the existing airport; converting the airport’s standby runway for full operations; and safeguarding land to ensure a new runway could be built should the government “turn back to Gatwick.”

Mark Lever, Gatwick’s head of corporate affairs, said that using the standby runway would be the “low-cost, low-risk” option, taking place entirely within the airport’s existing footprint and creating no new flight paths across the region. “The idea of flipping into full ‘second runway’ mode – I don’t think that’s where we’re at,” Lever explained.

He added that Gatwick Airport is working closely with neighbouring local authorities on a new tourism push to boost the region’s visitor economy. Converting the standby runway could boost passenger numbers, but passenger numbers are expected to rise even without that extra capacity by using technology to improve existing operations.

“We are working really closely with the local councils on the tourist economy,” added Lever. “There are 6 million passengers coming from overseas through Gatwick every year, but a lot of them just go to London. What we’re doing is working with the local communities to find a way to get them to also spend some money in our local region.” 

Wingate and Lever were speaking at the 10th annual Gatwick Diamond Economic Summit, at the Arora Hotel, in Crawley, last Thursday (20 June). The summit gathered developers, investors, business leaders and local authorities to discuss growth opportunities in the region.

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