London Gatwick Plans To Develop Second Runway

For many years now there has been a struggle to increase the capacity at London’s airports. A range of possibilities to achieve this were put forward. These ranged from creating an island in the Thames to building a third runway at Heathrow. Now it seems as though a relatively easy way to ease some of the congestion has been under everybody’s noses the whole time. London Gatwick has two runways, however, it can only use one due to their close proximity. 08R-26L is predominately used unless there is maintenance or an emergency. In this case, 26R becomes the runway in use. Now it looks as though turning The UK’s second busiest airport, which is 60 years old this year, into a permanent two-runway airport could be the answer.

London Gatwick
London Gatwick currently has two runways but is only allowed to use one at any time. Photo: Gatwick Airport

How Would This Be Achieved?

Initially, Gatwick had plans to massively expand, doubling its footprint and constructing a brand new runway. These would have seen a new terminal constructed south of the existing runway, which would be sandwiched between runways like Heathrow. The airport is now no longer looking at this option, however, the land will be retained for future development. Instead, the existing standby runway would be moved 12 meters north. The plans to look into this option were announced yesterday.

London Gatwick
Gatwick has seen a wealth of investment and expansion since this photograph was taken in 1978. Photo: Gatwick Airport

Why Now?

Previously the Airport had been part of an agreement with West Sussex County Council regarding the use of the emergency runway. This states that the airport is not permitted to host simultaneous operations on both runways. This agreement was made for a term of 40 years in August 1979, meaning that it will expire in August of 2019. In order to avoid causing issues with the Instrument Landing System present at the airport, the new runway would only handle departures.

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Gatwick’s proposals include using the standby runway for additional departures. Image: Gatwick Airport

70,000,000 Passengers A Year

According to the draft long-term plan released by Gatwick yesterday, opening up the second runway could allow an extra 10-15 aircraft operations per hour. Gatwick Airport estimates that this increased capacity would allow them to handle 70 million passengers a year by 2032. By comparison, in 2017/18 Gatwick handled 45.7 million passengers. In the same year, Heathrow handled 78.4 million. London Gatwick Airport believes that the cost of implementing these changes would come to no more than £500 million. This is due to the fact that most of the infrastructure is already in place. Only slight changes to the airport’s layout, in addition to extra capacity for more passengers, is required.

London Gatwick
At one time Gatwick had planned to build an entirely new runway. This land is now being safeguarded for future use. Photo: Gatwick Airport

Local MP Support

Despite the current restriction on dual runway operations being imposed by local government, the plans have the backing of the MP for Crawley. In a statement, Mr Henry Smith said: “Crawley’s prosperity depends on the success of Gatwick Airport and the publication of this new draft master plan goes a long way to securing future growth in the town. I have always supported the airport growing within its existing boundaries and welcome their exciting new vision for incremental growth that will support more jobs and opportunity in Crawley.”

What do you make of these plans to increase Gatwick’s capacity? Let us know below!