London Gatwick Airport has opened a new taxiway which it says will reduce delays and go-arounds, at the same time as helping to limit emissions and noise pollution.

The airport said that the Rapid Exit Taxiway (RET) enables arriving aircraft “to leave the main runway at a more optimal location after landing”, and was used by 56 per cent of arrivals in its first four days of operation.

Gatwick said that previously some aircraft would “narrowly miss the first taxiway to exit the runway”, for reasons including landing later than anticipated, weather conditions making breaking challenging, or because they were flying with a heavier load than normal.

This would result in the aircraft travelling along the runway to the next taxiway exit, which could add an extra 20 seconds.

The airport said that the new exit (not explicitly said but presumably located further down the runway) means more pilots are now able to take the first exit, or spend a smaller amount of time getting to the second exit, “meaning they are less likely to impact other aircraft”.

Gatwick said that the result meant the air traffic controllers could be more confident in the performance of landing aircraft, reducing delays, the likelihood of go-arounds, and holding times for aircraft waiting to depart.

Construction of the taxiway actually began back in 2020, but was paused during Covid-19 and subsequently reviewed, which the airport said had resulted in a redesign reducing construction carbon emissions from the original plan by more than 10 per cent.

Earlier this month Gatwick announced it had switched its fleet of diesel vehicles to run on Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), in a move which it says would reduce its Scope 1 vehicle emissions by 90 per cent.

Gatwick cuts Scope 1 vehicle emissions by 90 per cent through use of biofuels

Commenting on the news Gavin Sillitto, transformation programme lead, London Gatwick, said:

“Every project where you are building next to a live runway is complex, but we have a great result thanks to fantastic teamwork across the airport and with our contractor, PJ Hegarty.

“For aircraft exiting the runway, it is like the speed of turning onto a motorway slip road rather than onto a suburban street.

“Putting an exit in a place which is natural for how pilots normally brake, that can handle aircraft exiting safely at higher speeds, increasing resilience, reducing delays and limiting carbon and noise emissions.”

Last summer Gatwick formally submitted a planning application to bring its existing Northern Runway into routine use.

The airport’s second runway is currently limited to use as a taxiway, but in 2021 Gatwick unveiled proposals to reposition the centre line of the runway 12 metres to the north, to allow it to be used for regular flight departures. All arriving flights would continue to use the existing main runway.

A decision is expected from the Planning Inspectorate by the end of the year, and if approved construction work could start in 2025, with Gatwick hoping for the runway to be ready for operational use by the end of the decade.

Gatwick formally applies to bring second runway into use