Gatwick investors say they will put in the money to develop its emergency runway for routine use

VINCI Airports and infrastructure fund GIP say they have committed to funding the next stage of a scheme to upgrade Gatwick’s ‘standby’ northern runway, for routine use. That would add around 90 extra flights per day. The northern runway is currently short, and is used as an emergency runway.  It is too close to the main runway to be used independently, for safety reasons.  But it could take short-haul planes in gaps between use of the main runway.  Gatwick – struggling with the impact of the Covid pandemic – says it will now develop the development consent order (DCO) application for the project, including environmental surveys. The airport intends to launch a public consultation this summer.  Gatwick’s biggest airline customers – BA, easyJet, Norwegian and Virgin Atlantic – have suspended or scaled back flights, or moved some to Heathrow.  Gatwick hopes passenger traffic will recover fast, once vaccination against Covid makes it safer to travel, with traffic back to the level in 2019 by 2023.  Gatwick claims the runway will not add to carbon emissions (as it does not include the emissions from flights). The CCC has said there should be no net airport expansion in the UK. If an airport expands, another should therefore contract.


Investors back extra runway at Gatwick

January 2, 2021

Investors back extra runway at Gatwick as expansion would add 90 extra flights per day
VINCI Airports and infrastructure fund GIP have committed to funding the next stage of a scheme to upgrade Gatwick’s ‘standby’ northern runway.   [50.01% owned by French group Vinci; GIP and partners retain 49.99% – since December 2018].

By Harriet Dennys  For Financial Mail On Sunday

2 January 2021

Gatwick’s shareholders have given the green light to a runway expansion that would add around 90 extra flights per day, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.

In recent weeks, the airport’s billionaire investors – French giant VINCI Airports and infrastructure fund GIP – have committed to funding the next stage of a scheme to upgrade Gatwick’s ‘standby’ northern runway, currently used as a taxiway and emergency runway, for routine use.

It would be used alongside Gatwick’s existing runway as a so-called ‘runway-lite’, operating short-haul take-offs by the end of the decade.

Extra runway: It would be used alongside Gatwick’s existing runway as a so-called ‘runway-lite’

Gatwick will now develop the planning application for the project, including environmental surveys, and hopes to launch a public consultation in the summer.

It is understood that if the plan gets the go-ahead, its shareholders would invest hundreds of millions of pounds.

Until the pandemic, Gatwick was the busiest single-runway airport in the world. But its biggest airline customers – BA, easyJet, Norwegian and Virgin Atlantic – have suspended or scaled back flights.

Gatwick expects passenger demand to recover to pre-crisis levels from 2023 and said the northern runway expansion would add £2 billion to the economy and create thousands of jobs.

The scheme is also environmentally sustainable, in line with Gatwick’s commitment to reaching net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

A spokesman said: ‘Progressing our plans now could help us secure the long-term prosperity and jobs in the region for years to come.’


See earlier:

Committee on Climate Change – recommendations to government – lots on aviation carbon changes and policies needed

The Committee on Climate Change has published its guidance for the UK government on its Sixth Carbon Budget, for the period 2033 – 37, and how to reach net-zero by 2050.  There is a great deal of detail, many documents, many recommendations – with plenty on aviation. The intention is for UK aviation to be net-zero by 2050, though the CCC note there are not yet proper aviation policies by the UK government to achieve this. International aviation must be included in the Sixth Carbon budget. If the overall aviation CO2 emissions can be reduced enough, it might be possible to have 25% more air passengers in 2050 than in 2018. The amount of low-carbon fuels has been increased from the CCC’s earlier maximum realistic estimates of 5-10%, up to perhaps 25% by 2050, with “just over two-thirds of this coming from biofuels and the remainder from carbon-neutral synthetic jet fuel …” Residual CO2 emissions will need to be removed from the air, and international carbon offsets are not permitted. There is an assumption of 1.4% efficiency improvement per year, or at the most 2.1%. There “should be no net expansion of UK airport capacity unless the sector is on track to sufficiently outperform its net emissions trajectory.”  The role of non-CO2 is recognised, but not included in carbon budgets; its heating effect must not increase after 2050.  And lots more …

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Local campaign GACC sets out the actions needed for Gatwick to “build back better”

The local campaign group, GACC (Gatwick Area Conservation Campaign) has set out the steps that need to be taken to ensure Gatwick does “build back better.”  Gatwick’s operations and the flights it facilitates need to become compatible with climate change imperatives and  the airport must reduce its noise and other environmental impacts, in contrast to what has been happening at the airport during the past decade. At a meeting of the airport’s statutory consultative committee, GATCOM, on 15th October, GACC laid out a series of national and local measures needed to build Gatwick back better. GACC’s full statement  The measures include setting legally enforceable zero carbon targets for aviation; ensuring aviation pays a higher, fairer, contribution towards public finances through more equitable taxes, focused particularly on frequent flyers; phasing out of public subsidies that distort the industry’s economics; putting in place effective noise regulation; and ending night flights, that negatively impact people’s health and welfare. There also needs to be diversification around Gatwick, so the area is no longer so economically dependent on one sector. Gatwick should not be allowed to even to return to its 2019 size, let alone expand.

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Gatwick could lose 600 jobs, and it could take 4-5 years for passengers to return to 2019 levels

Gawick plans to cut a quarter of its workforce due to the impact of coronavirus. So about 600 jobs could be lost following an 80% reduction in the 2019 number of passengers in August. It only has the North Terminal working.  CEO Stewart Wingate said the cuts were a result of the “devastating impacts” coronavirus had on the airline and travel industries.  In March, Gatwick announced 200 jobs would be lost, and it later took out a £300m bank loan. With the collapse in passenger numbers, the company said it was looking to further reduce costs. About 75% of staff are currently on the government’s furlough scheme, which is due to end in October. The DfT says: “If people need financial support quickly they may be able to claim Universal Credit and new style Jobseekers Allowance.”  Many staff belong to the union, Unite, which will fight to minimise redundancies.  The airport has said it will take “four to five years” for passenger numbers to return to pre-pandemic levels. Its revenue fell by 61% in the half year, January to June, compared to 2019. While Covid remains a very real issue, and levels are slowly rising in many countries, air passengers have no certainty about from which countries they would need to quarantine themselves for 14 days, on their return.

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BA to cut Gatwick operation and lay off 1,130 pilots – and might not return to Gatwick post-pandemic

British Airways plans, due to Covid, to lose more than 1,100 pilots and make heavy cuts to its Gatwick airport operation as part of 12,000 redundancies – which is up to 30% of its workforce.  Letters sent to union representatives for all sections of the airline set out the deep cuts, as well as drastic changes to terms and conditions across the company. BA plans to lay off almost 80% of crew managers at Gatwick and 60% of other cabin crew, more than 1,100 of almost 1,900 staff. The jobs of just over 400 ground staff will be outsourced to the airport and its contractors.  The airline knows “there is no certainty as to when services can return” to London City or Gatwick airports. So BA may not continue at Gatwick. And they had “not ruled out suspending the remainder of our Heathrow operation”. Ground staff at Heathrow are also likely to be forced to accept new contracts with significantly lower pay. All 4,346 BA pilots will be asked to sign new contracts changing their terms and conditions, and accept new rostering arrangements. BA will be seeking to lay off 1,130 pilots. Around 22,000 BA employees were furloughed in April and May.

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Gatwick’s Big Enough Campaign writes to local authorities to ask that all Gatwick expansion plans should be properly scrutinised

The newly formed coalition of community groups, opposing the expansion of Gatwick airport and the noise made by its flights, has written to all the Leaders and CEOs of all Gatwick’s Host and Neighbouring local authorities. The letter proposes actions that Councils could take to ensure that all Gatwick’s proposed growth is properly scrutinised, as is the case at every other major UK airport. In particular it urges Councils to ask the Secretary of State for Transport to direct that Gatwick’s main runway development should be considered a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP) requiring development consent (a DCO) using his powers under section 35 of the Planning Act 2008. This would ensure that there was proper scrutiny of all proposed growth, of more flights on the existing runway – as well as more flights by using the current emergency runway as a full runway.  As things stand at present, the approximately 60% increase in flights that Gatwick plans would not require any particular planning scrutiny, while the use of the emergency runway (about 40% of the growth) would.  This is an anomaly. The groups are also keen to discuss the issues with the affected councils.

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