London needs more aviation capacity without a doubt. And a second runway at Gatwick would help to address that crunch, though it would not be enough to solve the shortage on its own. Gatwick is growing healthily again, and should be able to attract enough new passengers to justify a new runway. The bigger issue is, of course, hub capacity, which is vital to make long haul routes to new markets financially viable. Heathrow is the UK’s only hub airport and is full right now – no forecasts are needed. It may be possible for London to have two hub airports, like New York. But unless Gatwick can itself be transformed into a hub, expansion at Gatwick will need to go alongside extra hub capacity, either at Heathrow or elsewhere. Rail connections will also need to be improved, as Gatwick is a lot further than Heathrow from central London by road.
Corin Taylor is an economic advisor at the Institute of Directors.
Two major challenges could have a negative impact on the deliverability of a new runway at the airport. First, local communities affected by the proposal will – quite reasonably – be expecting to see a fully transparent planning process with clear rationale for a development. Secondly, from a UK business perspective, it would make more sense and strengthen credibility if it were set in the context of broader policy for investment in transport infrastructure. The requirement for hub airport capacity will hopefully be clarified as part of the interim findings of the government’s commission, due in late 2013. In the meantime, we’re desperately lacking a national vision for the development of strategic infrastructure for all forms of transport, rather than these piecemeal responses. This would also make it easier for the private sector to make future infrastructure investment decisions.
Robert Burton is a consultant at Roscarrek Consulting.