London Gatwick Airport plans to use second runway

Photo: © Gatwick Airport

London Gatwick, the second busiest airport in the UK, has announced plans to increase aircraft movements by the mid 2020s.

Existing infrastructure

The plans for Gatwick Airport would allow for an increase in aircraft movements by utilising the airport’s existing ‘standby’ runway. Its secondary, shorter runway is currently only allowed to be used when the main runway is out of use. The restriction comes from an agreement with the ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation), who deem the runways too close together for simultaneous use. That agreement is due to end in 2019. Gatwick say they are able to make small adjustments to the existing runway to increase the inter-runway distance. This would allow smaller aircraft to depart from the 2,565 m / 8,415 ft runway at a rate of 10-15 per hour. The larger 3,316 m / 10,879 ft runway would continue to be used for both arrivals and departures.


Local groups have expressed their disapproval of the plans. They claim that using the existing runway would lead to increased noise levels, emissions and safety concerns. The airport claims that noise levels would be unaffected and the modifications to the standby runway would therefore alleviate the risks highlighted by the ICAO. Gatwick previously stated they no longer wish to currently pursue the idea of building a new, second runway to the south. As such, campaigners have said that the new concept proves the airport to be untrustworthy.

Capacity in London

The London area is already operating at full capacity as plans to build a third runway at London Heathrow Airport (LHR) continue. With 78 million passengers using Heathrow in 2017, it is the busiest airport in Europe for passenger traffic. London Gatwick is the second busiest single runway airport in the world, after Mumbai. Previous plans to increase air travel capacity in the London area have been wide ranging, including rail solutions and even another new airport built in the Thames estuary.