25 Aug Gatwick Airport presses ahead with plan to use standby runway despite pandemic slump | Business News
Gatwick is pressing ahead with plans to bring its standby runway into routine use for departing flights despite the slump in demand caused by the pandemic.
Britain’s second busiest airport is to launch a consultation on the plans, first mooted in 2018, which it says will cut delays and congestion and lift passenger capacity from 62 million to 75 million a year.
Gatwick said the work could be completed by 2029 and that the expansion would generate more than 18,000 jobs by 2038 and add £1.5bn to the region’s economy.
“While passenger numbers currently remain low due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gatwick is taking its plans for growth forward now as we still expect to be capacity constrained in the time it would take to secure approvals, complete construction and start operations,” it said.
The expansion plans had already attracted opposition from campaigners concerned about noise and safety when they were originally put forward.
Gatwick said the proposals in the consultation being launched next month were “low impact” and “in line with government policy of making best use of existing runways”.
It said they would be “delivered in a sustainable way which helps to achieve the government’s overall goal of net zero emissions by 2050”.
The plans involve moving the runway north by 12 metres and Gatwick said they would meet all international safety standards.
Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “We are confident that Gatwick will not only fully recover to previous passenger levels, but has the potential to continue to grow back into one of Europe’s premier airports.
“Our plans to bring our existing northern runway into routine use will not only help to secure that growth but will also ensure many thousands of additional jobs and a vital boost to the economy for our local region.”
Gatwick missed out in 2016 when its larger rival Heathrow was selected by the government as the site for a new runway in southeast England.
It had been operating its main runway at full capacity during the peak summer season in the years prior to the arrival of the pandemic.
Earlier this month, Gatwick reported a £204m pre-tax loss for the first six months of the year, following an annual loss of £526m for 2020, as the pandemic took its toll.
Only around one million passengers travelled through the airport in the first seven months of the year, a total that was reached after just ten days in 2019.
The airport has shed more than 1,500 staff in the COVID crisis to date as it seeks to slash costs.