Gatwick Airport mulls response to Airports Commission Heathrow runway recommendation
Gatwick Airport mulls response to Heathrow third runway report
9.7.2015 (ATW online)
London’s Gatwick Airport is considering its response to the Airports Commission’s final report, which endorsed a third runway for Heathrow Airport. Gatwick takes issue with some of the methodology used and declined to participate in this week’s Runways UK conference in London.A Gatwick spokesperson said: “Gatwick requested the opportunity to speak on the opening day of the conference; Runways UK did not accommodate this. No senior Gatwick representative was available to speak on the following day.”The Gatwick proposal for a second runway was one of three proposals shortlisted by the Commission’s interim report in 2013. However, the Commission’s final recommendation, published last week, was for a third runway at Heathrow.
Gatwick is on record as having “deep concerns” about some of the modeling used by the Commission in reaching its final recommendation, and twice wrote to the Commission late last year highlighting these concerns.
In October, Gatwick told Commission Secretariat Head Philip Graham it did not receive “a clear explanation of the Commission’s approach” or “a reasoned response” to points raised “repeatedly” with the Commission.
Gatwick’s key concern was over the Commission’s use of Department for Transport’s (DfT) traffic projections, which it believes are not only inaccurate but also biased toward “allocating forecast traffic to Heathrow instead of Gatwick, without regard to any factors that could influence the allocation of such traffic in the future.”
The Gatwick spokesperson pointed out the DfT figures forecast traffic at Gatwick growing to 40 million passengers a year by 2024, whereas the reality is the airport will reach this milestone later this year—nearly 10 years earlier than forecast.
The spokesperson said Gatwick “pointed this issue out to the Commission right from the start of the process, and in numerous other correspondences over the course of the process. The traffic predictions feed into many of the Commission’s final conclusions, including the economic benefits generated by Gatwick—one of the key areas why the Commission chose Heathrow over Gatwick.”
Gatwick acknowledged that, when used as originally intended to model the existing UK-wide aviation market, the DfT’s modeling was fit-for-purpose. “However, the Airports Commission has taken the DfT’s modeling out of this intended context and has instead applied it to model the future growth forecasts of individual airports. When used in this context, the DfT’s model presents an inaccurate view,” the Gatwick spokesperson said.
Gatwick argues that, “since the DfT’s modeling is based on backwards-looking demand, it assumes that any new long-haul routes would automatically defer to those airports that already serve them. In the context used by the Airports Commission, this assumption is flawed as it assumes any new long-haul routes in the UK would automatically defer to Heathrow. In the last 12 months alone, Gatwick has attracted a series of long-haul routes [in North America, the Caribbean and Southeast Asia] that disprove this assumption,” the spokesperson said.
In the October letter, Gatwick concluded: “We remain of the view that your forecasts do not present a realistic picture of how passenger traffic is likely to develop across the London system, and we are very concerned that this will prejudice the consultation exercise if they are seen as serving this purpose.”
The airport is expected to make a decision shortly over what action to take in response to the Airports Commission final report, but it could further delay the already lengthy process of adding runway capacity in the UK South East.
On 1st July, Gatwick’s press release said:
Gatwick expansion remains only deliverable option
Responding to the Airports Commission Final Report today, Gatwick Airport said it remained confident that it will still be chosen for expansion as it is the only deliverable option.
Gatwick Airport CEO Stewart Wingate said:
“Gatwick is still very much in the race. The Commission’s report makes clear that expansion at Gatwick is deliverable.
“It is for the Commission to make a recommendation but it is of course for the Government to decide. So we now enter the most important stage of the process.
We are confident that when the Government makes their decision they will choose Gatwick as the only deliverable option.
“The report underplays the massive environmental challenges of air quality and noise at Heathrow. They are huge. For example it states ‘additional operations at an expanded Heathrow must be contingent on acceptable performance on air quality’ and must not ‘delay compliance with EU limits.’
“Heathrow breaches these limits today. Air quality readings in Hillingdon at 6.00am this morning – and available on its website – showed NO2 at 87 micro grams, well over twice the annual legal limit. It is hard to see how a third runway with all the additional road traffic will improve the position. It will simply make it worse.
“It also cannot be right that effectively creating a monopoly at Heathrow will be better for competition than expansion at Gatwick. It goes against everything that we all know about the success of airport liberalisation in recent years.
“Of course the UK needs the economic benefits of expansion. But the country cannot fly to new markets from a runway that can never be built. Expansion at Gatwick will be quicker simpler and quieter. It will promote greater competition benefitting all passengers whilst limiting the environmental impact.
“The choice ahead is clear. Choose Gatwick and – after decades of delay – something can actually happen. Choose Heathrow and nothing will happen. It will simply be Groundhog Day.”
Gatwick footage can be downloaded here, which contains:
- New Gatwick aerial footage showing the existing airport and the site of a second runway – a short one minute clip plus a longer five minute clip
- CGI animation of Gatwick’s expansion plans, and
- Timelapse footage of Gatwick’s existing runway and terminals.
The following images can also be downloaded here:
- Three new CGI design images of Gatwick expansion by Sir Terry Farrell. and
- A selection of images of the existing airport runway, terminals and airfield.
For more information about Gatwick’s case, please access the Gatwick website here.
Gatwick Airport is owned by a group of international investment funds, of which Global Infrastructure Partners is the largest shareholder.