UK's Gatwick may turn to emergency runway to boost capacity

Darnell Taylor
October 21, 2018

Gatwick bosses say the conversion of the runway to full use would meet all worldwide safety requirements and not increase the airport's noise footprint.

Now the 2,560m runway runs parallel to the 3,292m main runway and is only used as a taxiway or main runway in emergencies, and opening it up to departing flights could potentially increase capacity by 30%, or more than 80,000 extra flights a year.

Gatwick has released a draft masterplan for the future of the airport, including the potential of bringing its current standby runway into routine use.

The campaigners also say using the emergency runway in conjunction with the main runway could mean a 20 - 30% increase in flights over the very communities which now have no respite 24/7 from aircraft noise.

Gatwick is proposing to spend £500m to widen its emergency runway and bring it into daily use as a second runway, as part of a plan to bring more than 100,000 additional flights a year to the airport by 2032.

The airport said the proposal would meet all global safety requirements, could be achieved without increasing the airport's noise footprint while also providing greater operational resilience.

The masterplan also outlines alternative proposals that could see the use of new technology being used to increase capacity on the existing main runway, as well as proposals to safeguard land to the south of the airport for a possible new runway in the future - although airport bosses stress that option is not now being pursued. While Gatwick is not now actively pursuing the option of building a brand new runway to the south of the airport - as it did through the Airports Commission process - Gatwick believes it is in the national interest to continue to safeguard this land for the future as part of its draft master plan.

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The airport is now keen to encourage responses to a 12-week public consultation it has launched today to gather feedback and views on the draft master plan. Should Gatwick press ahead after public consultation to obtain planning permission in 2020, potentially the runway could be open by 2025, before Heathrow's third runway.

He said: "Our draft master plan marks the start of a new phase for Gatwick, building on what has made the airport the success it is today, and pioneering again to take advantage of the exciting opportunities that lie ahead".

"This is totally underhand, a stab in the heart for residents that thought they could get on with their lives after the runway debate was won by Heathrow Airport", said Sally Pavey chair of CAGNE (Communities Against Gatwick Noise Emission).

"From using new technologies on our main runway, to the innovative proposal to bring our existing standby runway into routine use, our draft master plan offers agile, productive and low-impact ways of unlocking much-needed new capacity and increased resilience from within our existing infrastructure", Wingate said.

"The local authorities, the people we elected, need to think hard before supporting Gatwick's plans", CAGNE said in a statement.

CBI director-general Carolyn Fairbairn said:"Now more than ever, unlocking new aviation capacity to deliver global trade links is critical for a strong United Kingdom economy. This will help shape our plans for securing the region's prosperity".

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