London Gatwick revives plan for use of second runway

Gatwick Airport will start a process to bring its second, emergency runway into full-time use, opening up a controversial expansion of the London hub.

The airport, owned by France’s Vinci SA, is the second-busiest in the world still using just the one runway. Its growth plans, previously blocked by the government, could add about 18,400 jobs by 2038, Chief Executive Steve Wingate told reporters Wednesday.

Gatwick faces objections from environmental groups and local residents about the additional noise and pollution, and will run a 12-week public consultation until the start of December. It will also have to consider the uncertainty surrounding the recovery in air travel from the Covid-19 pandemic, which has stalled in recent weeks amid a surge in cases linked to the delta virus variant.

“We expect to be back at pre-pandemic traffic levels in 2025 or 2026,” Wingate said. “There is a requirement to bring forward growth plans. We have to go through the planning process, then the procurement process and finally the construction process.” 

Gatwick is resurrecting the proposal even after the U.K. in 2016 endorsed Heathrow as the best candidate for growth. The larger rival has long planned to build a third runway, but the proposal is in limbo following a court ruling last year that the government failed to take full account of the Paris Climate Agreement.

Gatwick’s project requires minimal changes to airspace and will reduce taxi and airnorne wait times, said Bronwen Jones, the hub’s development director. (Bloomberg)

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