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Gatwick Airport: Growth Plan

Gatwick Airport has outlined a four-phase process for the building of a second runway and ancillary works in anticipation of a favourable recommendation from the Airports Commission.
Ben Cronin reports.

On 3 February, the Airports Commission closed its long consultation into whether Gatwick or Heathrow should expand. The Commission is expected to publish its recommendations this summer.

But while Howard Davies deliberates, Gatwick Airport is already preparing for a favourable decision.

“We’re preplanning. We’ve done far more work than you’d expect at this stage,” says Gatwick Airport construction and utilities integration manager Doug Waters.

“Consultant EC Harris has already produced a project execution plan and [programme manager] Bechtel is supporting us on deliverability.

Gatwick airport

Artist’s impression of redeveloped Gatwick with second runway

“We have a series of programmes broken into phases, which are fully cost loaded with a physical path.”

Waters anticipates that once the Commission makes its recommendation, the newly elected government will have to produce a national policy statement to go through parliament.

“Once that’s in progress, if we are the [chosen] option, it gives us the opportunity to start doing all the preparation work to put in a development consent order (DCO),” he says. “It’s more likely to go DCO than hybrid bill.”

Following the examples of Crossrail and the Olympics, Waters thinks Gatwick would have to bring on a delivery partner for the £7.7bn project.

“We have a series of programmes broken into phases, which are fully cost loaded with a physical path”

Doug Waters, Gatwick Airport

“You’d break it down into specific packages of work: you’d have an earthworks package, probably an airfield package, one for terminal buildings, one for roads,” he says. “We’d break it down that way, which is quite manageable, and then we’d have a delivery partner to procure down the packages.”

The preplanning team has broken the sequence of work into four phases, the first of which would be to build the 3.3km long runway, a new 60,000m2 terminal, a 30,000m2 adjoining contact pier and 16 contact stands alongside it. The work would also involve diverting the A23 along the south eastern edge of the airport as it currently runs through the middle of the 702ha new runway site. In addition the River Mole and Crawter’s Brook would be diverted into a channel that will work its way around the south west edge of the air strip.

Phase 1 will conclude with construction of a landside people mover between the South Terminal and the new terminal; building a multi-storey car park and additional road works.

Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) forecasts predict that Gatwick will reach its maximum annual capacity of 45M passengers in 2025 if no new runway is built.

If the runway plan gets the green light, all of this new infrastructure in phase 1 is scheduled to be operational by May 2025. At this stage the newly equipped airport would be capable of handling 63M passengers annually.

Waters says the next phases, Phase 1A and Phase 2, would be staged to grow capacity in line with passenger growth projections. Phase 1A (2025 to 2027) would primarily involve adding further car park capacity while Phase 2 (2025 to 2030) would involve extending the new second runway terminal to the north, extending the contact pier and starting work on a remote pier (see image).

“Rather than deliver everything up front and have a ridiculous hike in charges and a three-quarters-empty building, we’ll do it in stages,” he explains.

Phase 3 (2035 to 2035) would involve further extensions to the new terminal and the remote pier while Phase 4, (2035 to 2040) would see the new terminal and its associated pier fully complete. At this stage, the airport would have a capacity of 95M passengers a year.

So what does Waters think a 2050 government would do once passenger numbers exceed even that figure?

Map of reconfigured Gatwick


“If anyone has got any sense they’ll build a runway at Stansted,” he says. “You’d end up with a constellation of three, two-runway airports around London that would create greater flexibility,” he says.

Aside from the preparations for a second runway construction programme, Gatwick is continuing to invest in its existing infrastructure to make
it more efficient.

Since it took over the license for the airport, operator Global Infrastructure Partners has invested over £1bn in the airport.

While Heathrow has invested heavily in its recently completed Terminal 2 (T2) redevelopment, Gatwick is keen to draw attention to the work it is doing to reconfigure Pier 1 in its South Terminal, and some major restructuring of its North Terminal. A seventh platform at Gatwick railway station has also opened recently.

Gatwick Airport development director Willie McGillivray says: “T2 at Heathrow cost £2.4bn. You could buy Gatwick for that sum - we’re trying to drive value for money.”

In late January, the shell of the reconfigured Pier 1 building at Gatwick’s South Terminal Sussex airport was in place, 55,000m2 of new taxiway had been completed as part of the associated airfield works and considerable progress to install a brand new baggage processing system had been made.

Gatwick Airport head of programme for Pier 1 and South Terminal Baggage Steve Hudson explains that contractor Vinci is carrying out the lion’s share of the work: it has a £97M design and build contract as part of the overall £185M project cost.

The contractor is working extended hours and weekends to finish the reconfigured pier for a November deadline. Once it is complete, it will allow for storage of up to 2,600 passenger bags, enabling early check in up to 18 hours before flights depart. The new baggage sorting system will be able to process 4,250 bags compared to 3,700 at present.

“Ten weeks ago, this building was basically a shell and we were putting the roof on,” says Hudson. “All of the conveyers have now been installed in a 10 week period.”

The rectangular shape of the building is partly dictated by the need to integrate this processing system at its heart.

There was also a need to fit the new pier into a space close to the runway. The passenger gates sit above the baggage processing and early bag store floor in a two-storey format squeezed under the radar profile for air traffic control.

Flight path height restrictions, led to a decision to make the roof maintenance-free so that no one will need to access it. Internal space has been maximised through the introduction of a slim mid floor.

Previously the old pier had created a pinch point for aircraft where it joined its much bigger Pier Two neighbour. Moving the location of the new pier has freed up space for 55,000m2 of new taxiway.

More efficient use of space is also the objective in a £200M project to upgrade the airport’s North Terminal. Main contractor Balfour Beatty began work on the first phase of the Atkins-designed project in November 2014. This consists of creating a new North Terminal self-service check-in area, which with 60 check-in terminals is claimed will be the largest in the world when it is complete.

“We can’t afford to shut down the North Terminal to do all this work, says McGillivray.

“So we have to move services around and maintain the operability of the terminal as we go.”

The first half of the check-in area is due for completion in November this year, the second half in May 2016 and a new security hall is scheduled to be ready in October 2016. A new departure lounge extension will open in summer 2017 .

All of which gives the sense of an airport in a perpetual state of evolution as it tries to cope with passenger numbers that have increased by 6M in just the last five years. If the new runway gets the green light, Gatwick will resemble a building site until 2050.

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