Gatwick wants controversial second runway

Marion Dakers
GATWICK has kicked off a campaign to build a second runway at the south of London airport, arguing it would serve the south east of England better than an enlarged Heathrow or a new Thames Estuary hub.

Britain’s second-biggest airport said it will study options for a new runway, turning Gatwick from a mostly point-to-point airport into an international hub.

While an agreement with Sussex County Council means work on a new runway cannot begin until 2019, Gatwick has spoken up ahead of a government-commissioned investigation into expanding Britain’s air capacity, which is due to report in 2015.

The airport said in its Master Plan in June that it has “no current plans for a second runway”, in the face of government and residents’ opposition.

“We have always promised the local community that if we ever got to the point where we were doing work on a second runway, we would tell everyone,” chairman Sir David Rowlands told City A.M.

Rowlands believes airlines linking Europe to the Far East would be attracted to a bigger Gatwick, following in the footsteps of Korean Air and Vietnam Airlines, which launched routes at the airport in the last year.

Gatwick boss Stewart Wingate added yesterday: “I believe a new runway at Gatwick could be affordable, practical and give passengers a greater choice of routes to key markets.

“As for the Estuary airport concepts, there are major questions on affordability, environmental issues and whether they are deliverable.”

Heathrow hit back yesterday, arguing that “the UK is not short of the point to point capacity provided by airports like Gatwick”. Rowlands pointed out, however, that two-thirds of Heathrow traffic travels point-to-point, rather than using the airport as a hub.

The Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign yesterday warned it “would mount a massive campaign of opposition” if Gatwick continues talking up a new runway.

Meanwhile the chief executive of Qatar Airways, Akbar Al Baker, urged the government to expand Heathrow.