Gatwick may build new runway irrespective of government decision

Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick Airport

As the government prepares to make a decision on extra runway capacity for the south east - and with Heathrow strongly favoured to get the nod as the preferred option for development - it has emerged that Gatwick Airport may go ahead and build extra runway capacity anyway irrespective of what the government decides.

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme this morning, Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick Airport refused to rule out going ahead with a new Gatwick runway even if the government opted for Heathrow. He said that he was very confident that the runway would ultimately will be built at Gatwick and that any decision for Heathrow would only lead to more delays.

Asked whether Gatwick would go ahead anyway if the government decided for Heathrow or if Heathrow was bogged down over doubts over delivery and legal challenges, Wingate said “There’s one thing for certain. Any decision will indeed get bogged down in legal challenges if it’s a decision for Heathrow. Gatwick is the option which has more certainty of delivery, we can get spades in the ground this parliament and we can get the runway open before the end of the next.”

He said that Gatwick had won the argument over long-haul flight capacity, which has been a key consideration during the discussions over which airport should get a new runway. “One of the things that this debate has hinged around is whether or not Gatwick can serve long-haul routes and what we’ve seen this year is an explosion of long-haul routes at Gatwick where we’ve added 20 new routes. We now serve over 50 different long-haul destinations and when that’s taken into account with the fact that our scheme is fully privately financed, no need to go to the public purse, it’s faster to deliver and better environmentally, we think we’ve got a strong case that should be heard.”

Wingate said that Gatwick’s aim has always been to increase runway capacity. “Our desire has always been to build the runway, that’s why we have put forward such a powerful case. We think we have the strongest case and we are focused on getting that runway delivered and getting the economic benefits flowing to the UK. Because we can deliver our runway faster and cheaper, the economic benefits would flow to the UK faster if the government backs us. 

“We are very confident that the runway ultimately will be built at Gatwick. Any decision for Heathrow is simply a decision for more delay. Heathrow would have happened long before now if it was going to be delivered. It’s been turned down four times in the last 20 years because it’s simply too difficult whereas at Gatwick we can get certainty of delivery.”

Responding to the idea that a new runway could be built at both Heathrow and Gatwick, Wingate said: “If there were to be a runway at both for the consumer that would be an excellent outcome and at Gatwick we would certainly take advantage of the fact that we are faster to deliver and we’d get the runway open by 2025.”

The government is expected to announce its decision on extra runway capacity for the south east in the next fortnight and possibly as early as this week.

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Brilliant intention. Now, step forward Manchester, too.
Giving Heathrow a near monopoly position would be bad for business and the economy. Heathrow should not get a third runway while any single runway airport serving London that wants to expand has only one. Expanding airports will need improved surface access infrastructure; spreading the growth around will allow more parts of London to benefit from improved infrastructure. Concentrating on Heathrow will just increase congestion in the west and cost the taxpayer a fortune.
I understood that one other key question about Gatwicks ability to be considered for an additional runway was the inability of the current railway system to handle any further increase in passenger numbers to and from London that would be needed.