Gatwick boss: Picking expansion at Heathrow '˜a decision for more delay'

Picking Heathrow for expansion would be a '˜decision for more delay', Gatwick's boss said today (Monday October 10).

Stewart Wingate, chief executive officer at Gatwick Airport (photo supplied by Gatwick Airport). SUS-161010-130118001

National reports suggested that Gatwick was considering forging ahead with a second runway even if the Government decided to give the green light to a third runway at Heathrow, with a decision on airport expansion in the South East expected later this month.

But speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning, Gatwick’s chief executive officer Stewart Wingate explained that they were waiting for ministers to make a decision and thought they should ‘opt for Gatwick’.

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He said that a ‘decision for Heathrow is a decision for more delay’.

He added: “Any decision will indeed get bogged down in legal challenges if it’s a decision for Heathrow. Gatwick is the option that has more certainty of delivery, we can get spades in the ground this Parliament [by 2020] and we can get the runway up before the end of the next [2025].”

He continued: “We are at the critical stage of decision making process where Government has to decide and over the coming days and what we anticipate is led by [Prime Minister] Theresa May the sub-committee of the Government is going to look at evidence once again and as it is presented today come out in favour of a new runway at Gatwick.”

Recently Gatwick had seen an ‘explosion of long-haul routes’, while he argued a second runway could be fully privately financed, would be faster to deliver and better environmentally than Heathrow.

But he thought a new runway at both airports would be an ‘excellent outcome’ for consumers.

A statement for Communities Against Gatwick Noise and Emissions said: “If the Government does not select Gatwick and yet Gatwick applies for expansion anyway, it is highly unlikely that the airport would offer to provide any funding for roads and rail improvements as its management has said in the past that ‘onward surface access is not its problem’.

“That means that it will be our problem, taxpayers, and we can expect our air quality to continue to deteriorate through the lack of rail and road capacity.”

Meanwhile this morning the Scottish Government has announced its support for a third runway at Heathrow, arguing that it offered the ‘greatest strategic and economic benefits to Scotland’.

In response, a spokesman for Gatwick said: “We are surprised that the Scottish Government has chosen to support a proposal which we believe will undermine Scotland’s connections with the world, making it more dependent on London and the South East of England and restricting the choice available to Scottish travellers by forcing more of them to fly through London.

“Furthermore, some of the suggested benefits to Scotland are unlikely to bear serious scrutiny, which makes the decision all the more curious.

“However, we are confident that expansion will happen at Gatwick and that competition will prevail over the old-fashioned monopoly being planned by Heathrow.

“That would be the best outcome for Scotland.”

Gatwick has also continued to challenge passenger forecasts used by the Airports Commission to recommend a third runway at Heathrow, as in September 4.3 million passengers travelled through the airport which is up almost seven per cent on the same month in 2015, with the airport now serving 42.3 million passengers a year.

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