Gatwick chief executive says he will spend whatever it takes to prevent flooding problems for a 2nd runway
Gatwick Airport’s chief executive has told MPs that he will spend millions to protect any future 2nd runway and the airport’s north terminal from flooding after severe weather forced its partial closure on Christmas Eve. Stewart Wingate told the parliamentary transport select committee that he was willing to make “whatever investment is necessary” on flood defences after the flooding meant some flights were moved to the south terminal or cancelled. He said Gatwick had spent £20m on flood alleviation work at the south terminal, which he said had been deemed to be at far greater risk of flooding than the north terminal. He said: “Any plans for a second runway would absolutely assume that the buildings [and the runway] were protected to a similar degree from flooding.” A review of the incident will be published in February. Stewart Wingate admitted a lot more “could and should” have been done for customers after a power cut, caused by flooding of the electricity sub-station, threw the airport into chaos. Passengers said they had not been given information. EasyJet, said only 4 buses had been available to ferry passengers between the north and south terminals.
Gatwick to spend millions to prevent flood fiasco repeat
8 January, 2014
By Chloe Stothart (Construction News)
Gatwick Airport’s chief executive has told MPs that he will spend millions to protect any future second runway and the airport’s north terminal from flooding after severe weather forced its partial closure on Christmas Eve.
Stewart Wingate told the transport select committee that he was willing to make “whatever investment is necessary” on flood defences for the north terminal after floods on Christmas Eve meant some flights were moved to the south terminal or cancelled.
He said the airport had spent £20m on flood alleviation work at the south terminal, which he said had been deemed to be at far greater risk of flooding than the north terminal.
He said: “Going forward we will make whatever investment is necessary to protect the north terminal and electrical resilience of the facility.”
He added: “Any plans for a second runway would absolutely assume that the buildings [and the runway] were protected to a similar degree from flooding.”
He said Gatwick had relied on risk assessments of the likelihood of flooding at the airport from the Environment Agency and would work further with them on this.
One of Gatwick’s non-executive directors, David McMillan, is carrying out a review of the incident which will be published in February.
. ….. and it continues (about rail issues elsewhere) ……
Gatwick Airport boss apologises over Christmas Eve chaos
The chief executive of Gatwick Airport has apologised to passengers after thousands of people had their Christmas travel plans disrupted.
Stewart Wingate admitted a lot more “could and should” have been done for customers after a power cut threw the airport into chaos on Christmas Eve.
He said the actions of bosses “fell short” and would have an impact on the airport’s reputation.
The power cut happened after electricity sub-stations flooded.
The House of Commons Transport Committee heard how the airport had learned at 04:15 GMT on Christmas Eve that the River Mole would flood in half an hour.
It was expecting merely to have to contend with strong winds but the river burst its banks, flooding electricity sub-stations and causing a power cut at the north terminal.
Several thousand passengers were left stranded, with delays and dozens of flights cancelled.
All flights due to depart from the north terminal after 13:00 GMT were moved to the south terminal, apart from those from British Airways – but the moved flights were also delayed and others were cancelled.
‘Step too far’No trains ran to or from the airport for most of the day because of fallen trees on the line and disruption across the network, which caused a “massive queue” of people trying to leave the airport.
Passengers said they had not been given information about their flights or where they should go to.
EasyJet, one of the airlines caught up in the chaos, told the committee that only four buses had been available to ferry passengers between the north and south terminals.
Mr Wingate told the committee that the airport would have cancelled flights earlier had it not been Christmas Eve, with thousands of people anxious to get away for the festive season.
He said the “unprecedented” terminal switch had been a “step too far” and apologised to passengers, particularly those who had waited all day for their flight only to hear that it had been cancelled.
He told MPs the airport had been given a flight assessment in 2008 saying that the threat of a flood was far greater for the south terminal than the north terminal, with the north likely to be affected between once in 100 years and once every 1,000 years.
The assessment said that at the south terminal, a flood was likely to be a one-in-20-year event.
Mr Wingate said the estimates would have to be revised and many millions spent on contingency plans to ensure there was no repeat of the incident.
He said the flooding was the worst at Gatwick since 1967.
He told MPs: “We all decided we wanted to go the extra mile (to get people away for Christmas). It was a step too far.
“We did something with the best of intentions and we were partially successful. Half of the flights that had been due to depart from the north terminal did so and all the south terminal flights got away.
“We are very sorry about what happened to passengers.”
Related BBC Stories on the Gatwick delays and flooding
- Gatwick boss makes Christmas apology Watch
- Storm damage hits Christmas travel
- Power cut causes chaos at Gatwick
Oral evidence: Transport’s winter resilience, HC 681
Monday 11 November 2013
Gatwick boss wants Heathrow to cut number of flights in winter months
Stewart Wingate has written to transport secretary in bid to avoid the chaos at UK’s biggest airport “due to small amounts of snow”
Gwyn Topham, transport correspondent (Guardian)
Monday 21 January 2013
The boss of Gatwick airport has called for a cap on the number of flights at Heathrow to avoid disruption to passengers in what he called “normal winter weather conditions” after hundreds of departures were cancelled at the UK’s major hub over the last four days.
Chief executive Stewart Wingate wrote to the transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, asking for a meeting to bring together London’s three main airports to work out how to avoid the chaos at Heathrow “due to small amounts of snow”.
Wingate said: “It just cannot be right that passengers are being asked to accept apologies for pre-emptive flight cancellations. Huge numbers of business meetings and holidays will have been impacted and misery caused to travellers. The over-scheduling of flights at Heathrow during the winter period should stop.
“I am proposing that for the key winter months of December, January and February Heathrow declares a level of capacity that it can cope with in winter conditions. The additional flights then, for those three months, can move to Gatwick and Stansted.”
Thousands of passengers have seen their flights disrupted at Heathrow by the weather and there is some acknowledgment that cancellations came too late. When winter bites at Heathrow it means one thing: a meeting of the damned. “They’re damned if they do, or damned if they don’t cancel hundreds of flights,” as one ex-airport insider put it.
Heathrow’s demand and capacity balancing group, Hadacab, decided last Thursday to press ahead without general cuts to flights. which led to many passengers boarding planes on Friday that never took off, causing many hours of frustration. A meeting on Saturday saw 20% of the following day’s flights cancelled, and about 120 of Monday’s flights were cancelled amid fears for visibility in forecast freezing fog.
At Monday’s midday meeting, with runways and taxiways clear, Hadacab decided against further cancellations for Tuesday.
Gatwick, with 5cm of snow, prides itself on not having cancelled any flights for its own operational reasons, although airline troubles elsewhere in Europe disrupted its schedules. London’s second airport puts this down to better planning and an £8m investment in snow-clearing machines that sweep the runway in 10 minutes. A spokesperson said: “Snow is not an unexpected event. Everyone knows what their actions and responsibilities are and those plans went into place on Friday morning.”
Heathrow’s snow plans have been beefed up under an operations chief, Normand Boivin, headhunted in 2011 from Montreal airport, which sees over 2m of snowfall in an average winter. The airport also boasts £36m of new snow kit and claims to be the only one in the UK with a dedicated Met Office forecaster in residence.
But the chief difference is that 10 minutes to sweep a runway is time Heathrow does not have. Forced runway closures for clearance started the worst of Friday’s backlog: since, though, the runways and approaches have been clear. Visibility instead has been the bigger problem, with air traffic controllers requiring a bigger gap between planes landing or taking off. For an airport that operated last year at 99.2% capacity, a matter of seconds in each flight interval can cascade into long bottlenecks.
“Many airports have plenty of spare runway capacity so aircraft can be spaced out more during low visibility without causing delays and cancellations. Because Heathrow operates at almost full capacity, there is simply no room to reschedule the delayed flights,” a Heathrow spokesman said.
A DfT spokeswoman said: “The UK’s airports sector has learned many lessons from their experience in 2010, and this has allowed them to reduce the level of disruption significantly this year. We will expect them to continue to learn lessons and we will ensure they are as well prepared as possible.
“In the longer term, the Airports Commission will recommend how best to meet the UK’s aviation capacity and connectivity needs and will consider the full range of options, including both short- and long-term measures.”
According to a boss of another UK airport, who once worked at Heathrow: “As soon as they say we’re clearing one runway, there is no resilience. You can close one of five runways at Amsterdam, but here, even for 20 minutes, it means they’ve gone bust. They’re in a very constrained environment, and to get these great big snow-clearing machines around the aircraft without hitting them or other units is a very tricky job. The deicer will only last for half an hour or so and with gridlock on the taxiway, the whole thing becomes more and more complicated.”
Heathrow’s cancellation strategy is strongly dictated by British Airways, the largest carrier, which took much of the weekend flak. Early decisions to cancel have been compared favourably by some to the policy of London City airport, which only announced its decision to close altogether on Saturday in the afternoon.
Yet most observers feel Heathrow has got its act together after December 2010, when hundreds of thousands of passengers’ travel planes were disrupted by just one hour’s snowfall and more than 4,000 flights were cancelled over four days.But the fundamental problem is, as Heathrow admits, the sheer volume of planes. Given that snow is an annual winter event, has the airport bitten off more than it can chew? The other airport boss sympathises: “Is it them being greedy, or airlines wanting every ounce of capacity when they can? Either it turns away business every day, which would be crazy, or waits to deal with the problems that brings. It’s a tough call.”