In initial response to Airports Commission, Gatwick says report wasn’t sufficiently balanced, fair or well evidenced
Gatwick Airport has produced a short (14 page) initial response to the Airports Commission recommendation of a Heathrow runway. The Commission rejected the Gatwick scheme as falling far behind Heathrow, with much lower economic benefits or benefits to the UK as a whole. Now Gatwick say: “We believe that the Commission’s report falls short of [being thorough, balanced, fair and well evidenced] in a number of very important respects. As a result, the many strengths of Gatwick and the many challenges of Heathrow are both underplayed, leading to a conclusion which we believe is wrong.” Responding to this, the local community group GACC (the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) said the flaws in Gatwick’s case include the fact it caters largely for low-cost leisure flights, and will continue to do so; Gatwick likes to give the impression that the extra noise from a 2nd runway would not be a serious problem, but the anger of those on whom changed flight paths have been inflicted in the past 2 years shows that is not the case; and Gatwick ignore the huge social and infrastructure problems that would be caused by inwards migration, housing and urbanisation. GACC said: “It is time for Gatwick to give up flogging their dead runway horse and concentrate instead on being a better neighbour.”
Gatwick Airport has produced a response to the Airports Commission report. It is at
Gatwick says, in their summary:
….”Our view has always been that the assessments on which the Commission’s conclusions are based must be thorough, balanced, fair and well evidenced. We believe that the Commission’s report falls short of this standard in a number of very important respects. As a result, the many strengths of Gatwick and the many challenges of Heathrow are both underplayed, leading to a conclusion which we believe is wrong.”
This is the airport’s initial response, and they say they will “complete a more in-depth analysis after a thorough review of the extensive documentation published by the Commission.”
Gatwick’s red card – “Gatwick was given a red card and they should stop arguing with the referee”
14.7.2015 (GACC – Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign)
Commenting on Gatwick Airport’s response to the Airports Commission, GACC chairman, Brendon Sewill, said: ‘Gatwick was given a red card and they should stop arguing with the referee.’
GACC will be studying the response carefully but some flaws in Gatwick’s case are immediately apparent.
- They cannot deny that a new runway at Gatwick would provide less economic benefit for the nation than one at Heathrow.
- They draw attention to the growth in short haul flights to Europe. Many of these are bucket-and-spade holidays which have always been Gatwick’s main forte but which these days many people find more convenient from other airports closer to their homes.
- It is rubbish for Gatwick to talk about a ‘monopoly’ at Heathrow when Heathrow will always face tough competition from Gatwick, Stansted, Luton and many European airports.
- On noise, Gatwick imply that the noise problem at Gatwick would not be serious. That will infuriate the thousands of people who are at present suffering from new flight paths introduced by Gatwick in the past two years. The Commission showed that, even with a third runway, noise levels at Heathrow would fall below present levels whereas at Gatwick the number of people affected would treble.
- Gatwick suggest that passenger numbers on a new runway would grow more rapidly than the Commission forecast. Yet the cost of the runway would mean airport charges rising from £9 to £16-18, which would mean passengers and airlines would switch to Stansted instead.
- Gatwick ignore the problems of inwards migration, housing and urbanisation.
Gatwick seems to be counting on political opposition to the Heathrow runway but according to Sewill: ‘They are underestimating the pressure from the majority of MPs in all Parties to get on with implementing the recommendation of the Airports Commission without delay. They are also underestimating the opposition to their plans from all ten MPs in the Gatwick area. No major airline supports a Gatwick runway, and nor does a single county, borough, district or parish council within 20 miles of Gatwick.’
‘It is time for Gatwick to give up flogging their dead runway horse and concentrate instead on being a better neighbour.’
The Gatwick airport report summary states:
The Commission bases its analysis on future air traffic projections. Gatwick is disadvantaged by their methodology which is flawed. For example, the Commission forecasts that Gatwick will reach passenger volumes of 40m in 2024. The airport will actually reach that number in 2015.
Even with the flawed traffic forecasts, the Commission’s own analysis based on Treasury guidelines shows relatively modest differences in economic benefit between Heathrow and Gatwick (£33.6 – 54.8bn versus £27.2 – 47.1bn). These figures are not highlighted in the Commission’s conclusion which gives the impression of a big differential in favour of Heathrow.
The Commission acknowledges that the vast majority of new traffic over the coming period will be to European markets but recommends a solution that is focused almost entirely on long haul. They also fail to consider sufficiently the part that Gatwick could play in the long haul market.
Expanding Gatwick would enhance competition and build on the success of airport liberalisation. The Commission recommends turning the clock back and effectively re-establishing a monopoly at Heathrow. This would inevitably mean passengers paying higher fares.
The huge differential in noise impact between the two airports is largely glossed over – for example, relatively little emphasis is given to the 320,000 people ‘newly affected’ by Heathrow expansion compared to 18,000 at Gatwick.
The Commission states that air quality is a problem but then largely ignores the fact that the levels at Heathrow today breach legal limits even without a third runway. Gatwick has never exceeded legal air quality limits and would not do so with a second runway.
The Commission downplays the very considerable delivery risks and financial challenges at Heathrow compared to the Gatwick scheme which is relatively straightforward. This means the Commission underplays the biggest risk of all – that after years of delay, once again nothing happens.
Airports Commission ‘glossed over’ noise from Heathrow, claims Gatwick
14.7.2015 (Evening Standard)
By Nicholas Cecil
Gatwick today accused the Airports Commission of “largely glossing over” noise blight from a third runway at Heathrow after it backed the development at the west London airport.
Sir Roy McNulty, Gatwick’s chairman, is writing to David Cameron to voice his concerns about the Commission’s final report. “Our view has always been that the assessments on which the Commission’s conclusions are based must be thorough, balanced, fair and well-evidenced,” he said.
“We believe that the Commission’s report falls short of this standard in a number of very important respects.”
The Sussex airport alleges that:
The “huge differential” in noise impact between the two airports is largely glossed over, arguing that 320,000 people will be newly affected by Heathrow expansion compared with 18,000 at Gatwick.
The Commission largely ignored that Heathrow already breaches legal EU limits on air pollution even without a third runway.
It under-forecast future traffic at an expanded Gatwick.
It downplayed the “very considerable delivery risks and financial challenges” of Heathrow expansion.
It accepted most new traffic over coming decades will be to European markets but recommended a solution almost entirely focused on long-haul.
Gatwick also challenged the panel’s conclusion that the economic benefits of Heathrow expansion would be greater than a second runway at its rival, claiming that the latter option would have enhanced competition.
The Commission, chaired by Sir Howard Davies, decided that another runway could be built at Heathrow even if it did not meet EU limits on air pollution, provided that it did not delay London complying with them.
The panel also believes that fewer people would be affected by noise from a three-runway Heathrow than currently, because of quieter planes.
Gatwick is seeking to persuade the Government to reject the panel’s recommendation and opt for expansion in Sussex. It has so far stopped short of challenging the findings in the courts. The Government has pledged to make a decision on airport expansion in the South-East this year.
Gatwick Airport mulls response to Airports Commission Heathrow runway recommendation
Gatwick is considering its response to the Airports Commission’s recommendation of Heathrow for a runway, and questions some of the methodology used. Gatwick is on record as having “deep concerns” about some of the modelling used by the Commission, 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 took issue with the Commission on the DfT air traffic projections, which it believes are inaccurate and biased toward “allocating forecast traffic to Heathrow instead of Gatwick.” They complained that Gatwick is increasing its annual passenger number faster than the Commission predicted, and the traffic predictions feed into many of the Commission’s final conclusions, including the economic benefits generated by Gatwick.” Gatwick complains that the Commission presumes long haul routes will go to Heathrow, while it is possible more will go to Gatwick in future – changing the economics. Gatwick is expected to make a decision shortly over what action it may take. Legal action?