Gatwick Airport Northern Runway: 'Why we think now is the right time to go forward with these plans' - CEO Stewart Wingate

Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate believes it is the right time to launch the public consultation to bring the existing Northern Runway into routine use.

Wednesday, 25th August 2021, 6:15 pm

The public consultation launches on September 9 and bring the runway into use will secure the airport's long-term growth, create 18,400 new jobs and add an additional £1.5bn GVA for the local area and region.

And Mr Wingate said this was the perfect time to launch the consultation as the growth plans will 'come into fruition as the capacity begins to get strained again'.

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Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate on the Northern Runway

Gatwick's passenger volumes level have been low comparted to other nations like France and Germany but with the expectation pre-pandemic levels will return by 20-25-26 - these plans fall inline with that time frame - and with Government policy.

At today's (Tuesday) press conference to launch the public consultation, Mr Wingate outlined why they are launching the public consultation, what they have called on the Government to do to help the airport recover quicker, and why the plans are low impact and can be delivered in a sustainable manner.

Here is Stewart Wingate' s comments in full:

"Winding the click back to January 2019, hat's when we completed the previous consultation which at the time was looking at the masterplan we were setting out and that was the first time in public we explored potential use of the Northern Runway and the routine use of it alongside the main runway.

"We looked at the responses and reported it at the time over 66% of those who responded were positive about the routine use of the standby runway.

"We do have existing local support of bringing the runway back into routine use. Following that public consultation we then followed up in July 2019 that we would be taking this project forward and would do that through what is called a Development Consent Order process and we started work on those plans.

"But then all of us were heavily impacted by the pandemic.

"And a consequence of that we temporarily paused this work. Then more recently we have got back into the process of preparing the public consultation we are announcing today.

"The South Terminal continues not to operate but hopefully it will do soon. But to give you an idea of the very low levels we have seen at the airport this year. Through until the end of July this year we have seen just over 100,000 passengers.

"In the first 10 days of 2019 we saw just over 10 million passengers, so the pandemic is having a big impact on the airport in the short term.

"That said we are beginning to see passenger volumes recover somewhat. In July half million pass through and in August it will be close to 1 million passengers and I am confident we will be close to over 1 million in September.

"Following our financial results, we have set out quite clearly what we think the UK Government needs to to avoid our aviation sector falling further behind, particularly Europe and North America.

"And what we think the UK Government needs to do urgently to get the aviation sector up and running again is to ease the travel restrictions, particularly the double vaccinated so we are calling on the government to put in place similar procedures which are currently in place for example people travelling to and from France or Spain or Greece where by double vaccinated passengers can return to the UK either from a Green or an Amber country quarantine free and test free if our government was to do that and follow the leader of other European nations then we believe passenger numbers will start to recover.

"In the UK we are about 15 to 20% of our pre-pandemic passenger volumes. France and Germany are about 50-60%. Easing of passenger restrictions we should start to see a sharp recovery of passenger volumes.

"We are also calling on the government to reintroduce slot utilisation rules. This is where the airlines must use the slots or lose them.

"In Europe, that had already been done for this winter season, the UK government has decided not to do that so there is the ability for the airlines just to sit on the slots during the winter and not utilise them as a consequence we are continuing to call on the UK Government to put those rubies back in place now for the summer season of 2022.

"If they do that we can expect to see heavy utilisation of the slots, passenger volume recovery, the airport and employment recovery but not only at the airport but the regional area. They are incredibly important to us.

"In the time frame we are talking about today which is looking at our development plans which will come into action at the end of the 2020s, we do think now is the right time to be bringing forward this public consultation and also to be preparing the DCO which should be submitted in the second half of next year.

"We expect to be back at pre-pandemic traffic levels by 2025 or 2026 and when you look at the capacity crunch which we envisage will happen in the UK based on the Government’s traffic forecast then certainly there will be requirement for airport expansion by the late 2020s.

"If you look at the time frame of 2030 the government forecasts suggests there should be an additional 50 million passengers travelling to and from London as was the the case prior the pandemic in addition to the volume. Therefore there is a requirement to bring forward growth plans and we believe our growth plans will come into fruition as the capacity begins to get strained again.

"We have to go through the planning process, we have to go through the procurement process, then the construction process and finally bringing the standby runway into operation which will happen by 2029.

"Our plans have fallen in line with Government policy. The policy across the UK is to maximise the use of the existing runways. Clearly that is what we are doing. It terms of growth our plans are low impact and can be delivered in a sustainable manner.

"Certainly Gatwick has a taken a leading role in supporting the UK government and putting in place the budgeting process that means that we should be in a very strong position to meet this legally binding commitment to have net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and that does include some levels of growth in the UK aviation market including growth that we are proposing in these proposals.

"When we bring the standby runway into operation in 2029 that will set us on a platform to growth which will protect jobs and also the local economy and it means we should see an additional £1.5billion GVA to local and regional economy which is very important. It will also create 18,000 jobs across the region and the proposals we are presentation we believe will see the airport grow in a sustainable manner and set us up for the future years ahead."