Gatwick airport has completed the three-month public consultation phase of its ‘Master Plan’ to serve 40 million passengers by 2020 using one runway, with ground transport and noise the pressing issues for local residents.
Respondents want to see more passengers travelling to the airport on public transport but stressed that the already oversaturated rail network must be improved, especially at peak times, to deal with any increase in demand. The Gatwick Express service was singled out as in need of vast improvements.
Around 40 per cent of people travelling to and from the airport use public transport at the moment. However, the number of people travelling between Gatwick and London by rail could increase by 30 per cent in eight years and the number of commuters travelling on the same services could grow by 29 per cent, according to estimation figures by Network Rail.
Gatwick has recently stressed the need for greater cooperation with the Government and rail industry in order to make improvements to its rail links.
A recently published document by independent engineering firm ARUP, entitled Supporting UK growth and global market access: the case for high quality rail access to Gatwick Airport, outlines the need for better integration between the Southern and Thameslink rail networks and the UK’s second largest airport if sustainable growth is to be achieved.
The report proposes that any new rail franchise should seek to ease congestion for passengers and commuters in the South East by improving rail links to Gatwick. Specifically the report suggests any new operator provide a direct, express rail link to London with new carriages and reintroduces an on-board ticketing service.
The report states, “Research shows that airlines rate surface access to an airport as one of the top three critical reasons for locating there,” suggesting that any inefficiency with the UK rail network will stymie global competitiveness for Gatwick and the UK.
Commenting on the report, Guy Stephenson, Gatwick Airport’s chief commercial officer, said: “The report shows that a passenger’s impressions of Gatwick’s rail links lag behind other London airports and the capabilities of the trains on the Gatwick Express rank below equivalents at Heathrow, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Stockholm airports.
“We have the capacity to handle more flights and strengthen our country’s trade links with emerging markets. But if Gatwick is to continue attracting the new routes the economy needs, its rail links must improve in quality and extent.”
Other issues raised in the consultation included aircraft noise, especially during the summer months. However there is a recognition that aircrafts are becoming quieter and that noise is to be expected when living near to a busy airport.
Other concerns included lack of space and being moved on too quickly by traffic wardens at drop-off zones, the long walking times between these areas and the main terminal buildings, high car parking costs and the ‘monopoly’ enjoyed by the single taxi company at the airport.
The consultation sought out the opinions of local residents, businesses, councils and MPs, with 5,000 people checking in to review the dedicated consultation website and 79 registering an official response. A dedicated free phone line, freepost service, various workshops and a public exhibition were also used to collate opinion.
Kyran Hanks, strategy and regulation director for Gatwick airport said of the consultation: “Their views have been extremely valuable in providing us with a clear indication of the key issues that we will now consider as part of our final Master Plan.”
The final Master Plan will be published this summer where we will gain a better idea of how much attention has been paid to opinions stated during the consultation phase.
Gatwick is currently in the middle of a £53 million joint-funded plan with Network Rail to improve the station facilities at the airport, due to be complete by the end of 2013 (see online news October 15, 2010).
The original document Gatwick Airport: Draft Master Plan Summary Report on Public & Community Consultation is available to read in full at gatwickairport.com/masterplan.
For more information visit gatwickairport.com
Report by Scott Carey