Stewart Wingate says Gatwick won’t give up on its 2nd runway – whatever the government says
Stewart Wingate says Gatwick will continue to push for a 2nd runway even if Heathrow gets Government backing for a runway, when (if?) the announcement is made in December. The Prime Minister has said there will be a formal response to the Airports Commission’s findings by the end of the year, though it may be by George Osborne or Patrick McLoughlin, to save Cameron having to admit his “no ifs, no buts, no 3rd runway” promise. Gatwick has spent the past four months attempting to pick holes in Sir Howard Davies’ work, trying – not very successfully – convince the Government to back Gatwick instead of Heathrow. Stewart Wingate has said he thinks a Heathrow runway is undeliverable, and he will not lose his appetite to get his runway. “This is going to be a multi-year event.” He refuses to rule out legal action to block Heathrow expansion if it gets government backing. Gatwick has already examined the legality of the air quality issue, but Wingate adds: “I think there’d be other people in the queue well ahead of us” who would challenge the Goverment in the courts. Wingate also insists that he will “absolutely not” resign if the Government supports Heathrow, because he believes Heathrow will ultimately be refused on environmental grounds. He continues to deny the environmental problems of a Gatwick runway, which are nearly as bad as one at Heathrow.
Gatwick will keep on with second runway bid even when Authorities backs Heathrow
November 15, 2015 (Salem Standard)
Gatwick will continue to push for a second runway even if Heathrow wins Government backing for its expansion plans next month, according to Stewart Wingate, the chief executive of Britain’s second-biggest airport.
The West Sussex airport is vying with its bigger west London rival for David Cameron’s blessing to expand.
Mr Wingate’s ambitions were dealt a blow at the start of July, when the Government-appointed Airports Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, recommended that Heathrow should be allowed to grow, to solve the country’s impending runway capacity crisis.
The Prime Minister has pledged to give a formal response to the commission’s findings by the end of the year. Gatwick has spent the past four months attempting to pick holes in Sir Howard’s work, to convince the Government to reject the commission’s recommendation and support its expansion instead.
“I don’t think it can possibly be the end of it,” he said. “I think the Government decision is an important milestone, but are we going to lose our appetite and build a second runway? Our belief is, Heathrow is undeliverable. This is going to be a multi-year event.”
“Our belief is, Heathrow is undeliverable”, says the head of Gatwick Photo: David Rose/Telegraph
Mr Wingate was speaking as Gatwick reached a milestone today despite this morning’s evacuation, with 40m passengers passing through the airport in the past year,. The commission’s forecasts had assumed the airport would not be this busy until 2024.
Mr Wingate said that previous plans to expand Heathrow had failed on environmental grounds and the same would happen again if the Government backs another runway in west London. Gatwick, which has already invested more than £25m on its runway bid, would “stand ready” to deliver its landing strip if Heathrow’s plan unravelled, he said.
He refused to rule out launching a legal challenge if the Government throws its weight behind his rival. Gatwick believes that a third runway at Heathrow would be illegal on the grounds that it would breach European Union limits on air pollution. Heathrow insists it can expand within EU rules.
Mr Wingate also batted away any suggestion that he would resign if the Government did not give Gatwick the green light.
Also from the Telegraph.
About Stewart Wingate:
The airport’s chief executive is the public face of Gatwick’s vocal and often aggressive campaign to convince ministers to allow it to grow. An electrician by training, he has the air of a practical man willing to build the runway with his bare hands if given half a chance. His experience with power tools would certainly be handy.
Wingate switched into the aviation industry after 16 years working for Black & Decker. He was born in Bishop Auckland, a market town in County Durham, and left school at 16 to pursue a career in industry at the American power tools manufacturer.
While at Black & Decker, he was offered the chance to study at university, graduating from Northumbria with a degree in electrical and electronic engineering, and subsequently from Newcastle with an MBA.
He then progressed rapidly at the company and was soon sent abroad. He lived in Frankfurt for 18 months, and spent two years in Prague setting up a manufacturing plant. In 2004, he decided it was time for a change.
“A former colleague from Black & Decker who was the MD of Glasgow Airport, knew that I was leaving so he put a call in and said ‘do you want to come and have a look at the airport?’ ”
A brief spell as operations director at Glasgow was followed by a posting as chief executive of Budapest airport. In 2007, he was appointed managing director of Stansted before taking the helm at Gatwick in 2009, joining on the same day that private equity giant Global Infrastructure Partners took control from BAA.
“It had been under-invested in, it hadn’t been marketed properly and there were certain elements of the service proposition, particularly the likes of security, which just weren’t good from a passenger perspective,” he says.
He set about improving the airport, putting in new security facilities and attracting more airlines such as WestJet. Since then, passenger numbers have grown rapidly from the 32m annually who used Gatwick when he started. A second runway is crucial if it is to keep growing so swiftly in the years to come.
But winning government support for expansion looks an uphill struggle. In July, the government-appointed Airports Commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, recommended that Heathrow, rather than Gatwick, should be allowed to build another runway. David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has pledged to make a decision by the end of the year on whether to follow Sir Howard’s conclusions.
Wingate firmly believes the Commission, which spent three years examining how best to solve Britain’s aviation capacity crisis, made the wrong decision, and is hoping to convince ministers to back Gatwick expansion instead.
Since the Commission’s final report, Gatwick has not been shy about its position, launching a series of attacks on Sir Howard and his team. They have drawn a stinging response from Sir Howard, who has branded the airport’s criticisms as “nonsense” and “entirely misguided”.
“We’ve been quite forthright, we think they got it wrong, in terms of the conclusions they’ve drawn from the evidence that sits within their report,” says Wingate. Chief among Gatwick’s complaints is that the Commission used estimates that suggest Gatwick will only hit 40m passenger in 2024.
“Traffic forecasts will never ever be accurate, but we do expect a better result than the forecasts that have been used.”
Furthermore, Gatwick is concerned that the Commission put too much emphasis on a PwC assessment of the economic impact of Heathrow and Gatwick, which favoured the former, rather than a Treasury analysis, which the airport insists shows little difference between the two.
Gatwick also points out that the Commission’s own estimates indicate that its second runway, at £7.1bn, would be much cheaper than a third at Heathrow, which would cost £17.6bn.
Expanding Heathrow would need at least £5bn for road and rail works, some of which would probably come from taxpayers, while Gatwick would only require an extra £800m, all of which the airport has pledged to pay. Then there is the issue of air pollution. [That is total, absolute nonsense. There would be huge costs to the taxpayer for the necessary public transport, if Gatwick got a runway. AW note].
“We’ve looked at the legal case particularly around air quality because we do see this as a significant hurdle for any government decision,” says Wingate. Gatwick argues that the Commission’s Heathrow recommendation is flawed because expanding the West London airport would be illegal on the grounds that it would violate European Union restrictions on air pollution.
Two air monitoring stations around Heathrow already exceed EU levels. Heathrow stresses the stations are on the M4 and not in the airport itself, and insists its runway plan will comply with the law. Gatwick, meanwhile, argues that it meets the rules now, and would do if it expanded.
“The air quality will deteriorate somewhat, but it’ll not violate the targets that have been set down,” Wingate says of Gatwick’s plan. “Heathrow, they violate today, and how on earth are they going to pass the tests” with a third runway.
Opponents of both Heathrow and Gatwick expansion are also concerned about the blight of increased aviation noise for local residents. Wingate, who lives in Surrey, has planes flying over his home, although he does not live under the arrivals flight path.
“It certainly makes you very aware of the noise impacts,” he says. But as a businessman who has worked abroad, he believes the disruption is outweighed by the benefits of good transport links. “If I want to have the connectivity then what I need to do is to accept that there will be some level of impact that I’ll have to tolerate.” [Being paid as much as Stewart Wingate, it is barely surprising he finds the noise of the planes that generate his income acceptable! What a surprise. AW note]
Perhaps unusually for a company chief executive, Wingate spends as much time talking about his main rival – Heathrow – as he does his own business.
Whenever he makes the case for Gatwick’s runway, he invariably follows it up with a critical comparison to Heathrow. [Gatwick has done constant negative campaigning about Heathrow for years. Endlessly. Like the parable of the mote and the beam – Gatwick loves go ignore its own problems, hoping they will seem acceptable in comparison with those of Heathrows. Wrong. AW note].
Given the intense rivalry between the two airports, does he like John Holland-Kaye, his opposite number at Heathrow? “We get on reasonably well,” says Wingate. “There’s probably a healthy respect but also a significant competitive edge to our relationship.”
He refuses to rule out legal action to block Heathrow expansion if Cameron backs his rival. Gatwick has already examined the legality of the air quality issue, but Wingate adds: “I think there’d be other people in the queue well ahead of us” who would challenge the Goverment in the courts.
Wingate also insists that he will “absolutely not” resign if the Government supports Heathrow, because he believes that even if the West London airport receives the green light for a third runway it will not be built, leaving the door open for Gatwick. Expanding Heathrow has been recommended three times in the past 12 years, but has always failed amid environmental concerns.
“History tells us, every time Heathrow gets an approval it doesn’t take long before it falls over,” says Wingate.
Whatever Cameron decides next month, it will not resolve the battle between Heathrow and Gatwick once and for all, Wingate believes.
“I don’t think it can possibly be the end of it,” he says. “It may be as early as the end of this year, it may be we have to be patient, but I think if we keep doing what we have been doing, sure as eggs are eggs that decision will come round to Gatwick because it is the obvious choice.”