GACC warns Patrick McLoughlin of the future costs to the Exchequer of infrastructure needed for Gatwick runway

GACC (the Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) has written to Patrick McLoughlin, to remind him about the comparative costs of infrastructure relating to a new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick. Robert Goodwill recently indicated that whichever airport was selected would be expected to pay for the necessary infrastructure – a policy GACC fully supports. GACC point out that the calculation of the surface access costs, by the Airports Commission, is distorted. While it considers the requirements for both airports at 2030, it estimates that by then there would be 35 million extra passengers at Heathrow (due to pent up demand), but only 8 million more at Gatwick(struggling against Stansted and Luton). So the extra road and rail traffic generated at Heathrow by 2030 would be far greater than that at Gatwick, and (when adding tunnelling the M25 at Heathrow) accounts for the difference in infrastructure costs – £5.7 billion compared to under £1 billion. But with the runways working at full capacity by around 2040, the surface access infrastructure costs of a new Gatwick runway would fall on the Exchequer. These would include widening of the M23 or M25, and improvements to the Brighton main line. With Gatwick then bigger than Heathrow today, there might be a need of of a hugely expensive extension of the M23 into central London. And so on …



Letter from GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) to the Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin MP

19 October 2015

Rt Hon Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport

There have been a number of recent reports in the press, and comments by the Scottish Nationalist Party, on the comparative costs of infrastructure relating to a new runway at Heathrow or Gatwick.  These follow an answer given by Robert Goodwill to a recent PQ in which he indicated that whichever airport was selected would be expected to pay for the necessary infrastructure – a policy we fully support.

It has come to our attention, however, that the comparative costs as quoted are extremely misleading.

At Heathrow the infrastructure costs were calculated by the Airports Commission at £5.7 billion, and the need to include these in the cost of a new runway is said to be a ‘black hole at the centre of the Heathrow runway plan’.  At Gatwick the infrastructure costs were assessed at under £1 billion, and Gatwick Airport Ltd have promised to meet them.

Both sets of costs are calculated for the year 2030, which would appear to be fair.  Why they are misleading is because in 2030 the forecasts show the new Heathrow runway as handling 35 million extra passengers while at the same date a Gatwick runway would be handling only 8 million.  Thus the extra road and rail traffic generated at Heathrow would be far greater than that at Gatwick, and (when added to the need to tunnel the M25 at Heathrow) accounts for the difference in infrastructure costs.

As Sir Howard Davies has set out in his letter to you dated 7 September, the difference in forecasts is because of the pent-up demand for Heathrow, and the fact that a new runway at Gatwick would struggle to attract passengers in competition with Stansted and Luton.

The danger for the public finances in using these forecasts based on 2030 is that if by 2050 a new Gatwick runway was operating at full capacity, all the cost of the additional infrastructure would fall on the Exchequer.

The infrastructure proposals made by Gatwick Airport Ltd for the year 2030 do not include any widening of the M23 or M25, merely hard-shoulder running; and no improvements to the Brighton main line except using longer trains.  Yet by 2050 with Gatwick operating at full capacity – larger than Heathrow today – it is obvious that there would need to be widening of the southern segment of the M25 and a widening of the M23 with perhaps a hugely expensive extension of this motorway into central London.  The Airports Commission mentioned the possible need by 2040 to rebuild East Croydon station on two levels and take extra rail lines underground from there to Victoria and London Bridge.

This extra cost could not be less than £10 billion.  On the formula quoted by Robert Goodwill all this cost should be borne by Gatwick Airport Ltd.  Perhaps not now but with a legally binding commitment to pay when the need arises.

If the Heathrow infrastructure cost is a ‘black hole’ this is a black canyon a few years down the road at Gatwick.

If you are preparing briefing for the Cabinet and for Parliament on the rival merits of Heathrow or Gatwick we trust that this issue will be included.  If not any subsequent decision could be subject to judicial review.

As this involves potential public expenditure, I am copying this to the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.


Brendon Sewill CBE

Chairman (GACC)




See also

Aviation Minister Robert Goodwill says Heathrow has to pay for surface access work resulting from a 3rd runway

Adam Afriyie has reported that, in response to a question he asked the government’s aviation minister, Robert Goodwill, the Government ruled out spending public money for the related surface access costs of a Heathrow 3rd runway. If correct, this is a huge blow to Heathrow, as their surface access costs could be £5 billion just to tunnel the M25 and perhaps up to £10 -15 billion more, for other road and rail improvements, according to Transport for London. In response to the parliamentary question Robert Goodwill said: “In terms of surface access proposals, the Government has been clear that it expects the scheme promoter to meet the costs of any surface access proposals that are required as a direct result of airport expansion and from which they will directly benefit.” Adam Afriyie said: “It is welcome news that the Government has ruled out paying the costs of upgrading the railways and local roads or moving or tunnelling the M25. If Heathrow won’t pay and the Government won’t pay, then the 3rd runway is already dead in the water …It is quite right that the public should not be made to fork out up to £20 billion of subsidies to a private company which refuses to pay its own costs of expansion.” In July John Holland-Kaye said Heathrow would not pay.

Click here to view full story…

Gatwick airport says: 

Gatwick has confirmed that it will meet any additional surface access costs and will be road and rail ready for a second runway by 2021.   Link 


Gatwick does not require a congestion charge to support delivery of a second runway, either for capacity or to meet air quality requirements, as demonstrated in both Gatwick’s R2 Airport Surface Access Strategy (which was agreed with stakeholders including Highways England and West Sussex County Council) and as demonstrated by the Commission’s own analysis – “Investment on the M23 and M25 is also forecast to provide sufficient capacity to accommodate growth in road traffic from the expanded [Gatwick] airport”   Link



Gatwick will be “road and rail ready” for a second runway by 2021 Public consultation highlighted questions around how local roads and rail links would cope with the additional traffic created by an expanded airport. A series of transformational public transport improvements have already been committed to by the Government such as Thameslink. Gatwick has responded by setting out a series of promises and targets to improve local transport and mitigate congestion: • The airport will ensure local road networks will be no more congested than they are today including setting up a £10 million local highway development fund to meet any additional works • Gatwick already achieves 45% of passengers using public transport. Improvements will help increase this to 60% by 2040, comparable with the best airports in the world • Gatwick will fully fund any road improvements such as M23 Junction 9 and A23 diversion • Investment in the Gatwick Gateway, a world class interchange for the airport that will also serve the local community and the wider region • An increase in sustainable access and public transport.  Link


Local residents group said:

In the Transport for London Surface Access document of February 2015 highlights the fact that catalytic and freight have not been included in the Commission’s figures for surface access and is underestimated by some 25% at Gatwick.

It goes on to state that the Commission has included benefits of a number of uncommitted and unfunded airport access rail schemes.

With Gatwick having no direct links to Crossrail or HS2 and the fact that adding more trains, carriage€s, which is Gatwick’s plan, to an already congested single line would not ease the access demands on the roads around Gatwick which are already at breaking point and has no funding to improve unless the taxpayer pays.

Please note the M23 will be full by 2040 without Gatwick 2.

Congested roads simply means more pollution outside our homes and schools as there is no funding for local roads. Unlike Heathrow that have included costings, Gatwick has not.

As Gatwick argue recently ‘onward surface access is not their problem’.  (CAGNE)