This is what Chris Grayling had to say about £150m upgrade to Gatwick Airport railway station
"I think this is a real step forward – for not just Gatwick Airport – but the surrounding area."
These were the words of Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, after announcing that Gatwick Airport railway station is to undergo a £150million upgrade.
The upgrade, set to start in spring 2020, will involve doubling the size of the station concourse, widening two platforms, adding five new lifts and eight new escalators.
Speaking to this newspaper after the big announcement, Mr Grayling said: "This station improvement isn't just about passengers travelling into and out of the airport, there are people who commute from Gatwick Airport.
"There is also plans for a big new business park alongside the airport, so this is, actually, a real enabler for the whole local economy and not just for the airport."
He added: "The airport has expanded massively in recent years, the station is now full and it desperately needs this expansion."
Planning permission for the upgrade was granted earlier this year. There was huge support for the application as councillors described the station as a disgrace’, a ’national embarrassment’, and ‘Third World’.
Work has not been carried out at the station since 2012, when Platform 7 was built to accommodate the ever-increasing amount of passengers.
Trains will run at a much lower speed throughout the works, a spokesman said, which are expected to take around two years to complete.
Mr Grayling said the aim was to keep disruption to an 'absolute minimum'.
"We can never say with a project like this that there will be no disruption at all, but the aim is to keep Gatwick Airport station working smoothly over that period of time," he said.
"This is an airport station that's needed pretty much 24-7, so the work has to be planned extremely carefully to make sure the stations continue to operate normally most of the time, that GTR, the train operator, plans services for Thameslink, Southern, and Gatwick Express in a way to make sure that passengers can carry on travelling as normal."
He commented on the 'improved' service of trains in the area, following the 'hiccups' last year: "It now seems to be working pretty well – customer satisfaction has risen very sharply and long may that continue.
"This is actually one of the routes that is best-served with trains in the country. There is huge amounts of extra capacity with the increased Thameslink service into central London.
"There are brand new trains on virtually every service on the Brighton mainline – the big new Thameslink trains, the Southern trains are modern and comfortable."