Gatwick airport has completed works to resurface its main runway, using what it called “a break from traditional methods” to reduce costs and save time.

The airport had originally intended to carrying out the resurfacing programme in 2020 – the fifth “rehabilitation” of the runway since it was built in the 1950s – but the work was postponed as a result of Covid-19.

Gatwick says that the delay acted as a catalyst to draw up new plans, which have ultimately delivered “a much more sustainable solution for the minimum practical budget”.

Instead of resurfacing the whole of the runway as would normally have been the case, the airport has resurfaced “only the most ‘trafficked’ parts of its main runway” – where aircraft land and exit – as other sections were shown to still have seven to ten years of expected life.

In addition Gatwick used a resurfacing technique allowing it to lay the required two layers of asphalt in a single night, instead of the previous two-night approach.

The airport said that the combined changes allowed it to complete the project in just six months – half the normal time – and for half the cost, while also using 70 per cent less asphalt than traditional resurfacing methods.

All of the old asphalt material was recycled as aggregate in road construction, and Gatwick said that a temporary on-site asphalt batching plant reduced lorry travel distance and emissions.

The airport’s runway remains the world’s busiest, with a current throughput of 55 movements per hour, and Gatwick compared the resurfacing work to “Performing open heart surgery while the patient is jogging”.

Commenting on the news Alasdair Scobie, capital delivery director, London Gatwick Airport, said:

“The pandemic gave us the time and reason to rethink our original design. We think we have achieved the best balance possible between cost, operational constraints and durability, whilst reducing the environmental impact of construction.

“The cost savings can now also be reinvested in improvements across other parts of the airport.”