Sally Pavey’s totally one-sided and outdated views about Gatwick Airport and its case for expansion cannot go unchallenged (Major flaw in expansion plan, Opinion, Crawley Observer, 18 January 2017).
Whether it is the airport’s passengers clogging up local trains and roads as claimed by Salley Pavey or the other way around is debatable. It is also arguable whether the apparent popularity of the Oyster card with local commuters travelling by train into London has more to do with the a lack of reasonably well-paying, local jobs rather than genuine popularity. However, as far as Gatwick’s inadequate rail access is concerned, the best way to ease the overcrowding on the existing railway line at peak times would be to build a second rail line linking Brighton with London that bypasses the bottleneck between Three Bridges and East Croydon. This would provide an alternative route for the many daily commuters between Brighton and London and would free capacity on the existing line for additional airport-related passengers. And with regard to inadequate road links, Sally Pavey should ask herself why the M23 stops where it joins the M25 south of Hooley rather than going all the way to London. As she should know, the reason that prevented that from happening was a lack of funding, mainly in response to local nimbyism.
The notion that Gatwick’s passengers are one-off bucket and spade passengers, who all travel on low-cost flights and take money out of the UK is not only inaccurate but also outdated. Since the break-up of the old BAA airport monopoly in South East England, the new management at Gatwick has worked hard to improve its facilities and to attract well-reputed airlines that cater to both business and leisure passengers and use less environmentally damaging, state-of-the-art aircraft. This incidentally includes Gatwick’s three biggest low-cost airlines, easyJet, Norwegian and Ryanair. These airlines generally fly more modern aircraft and fill a higher proportion of their seats than their established rivals. Furthermore, the refusal by low-cost airlines to offer a traditional first or business class means that they use the space on their aircraft more efficiently, which in turn results in a lower carbon foot print per passenger compared with most established rivals. This is evidenced by a recent comparison of transatlantic airlines’ carbon foot print per passenger. In this comparison Norwegian, which exclusively uses latest-generation Boeing 787 Dreamliners on flights from Gatwick to the US, came out on top while BA, which still flies a large number of older generation Boeing 747s and 777s from Heathrow and Gatwick to the US, finished bottom. And far from being the preserve of the bucket and spade brigade, many businesses increasingly instruct their employees to choose low-cost airlines for business-related travel, especially for short-haul flights. Also, sterling’s recent fall against the US and Canadian dollar, the Euro, the Norwegian krone and major Asian currencies in the wake of Brexit has resulted in a marked increase in inbound travellers arriving at Gatwick, who are intent on spending more money during their stay in the UK . This not only refutes the assertion that all Gatwick passengers are outbound and take money out of the country, it also proves that these passengers are important drivers of our economy by injecting money into it that helps sustain a significant number of UK jobs, locally and further afield. Although I agree with Sally Pavey that the creation of local jobs by heritage sites along England’s South Coast makes a significant contribution to our region’s employment and wealth, this will be insufficient on its own to sustain the economy in the Gatwick Diamond region.
There is nothing unusual about Gatwick making money from commercial concessions on its premises; it’s what all successful airports do. However, the unsubstantiated claim that all of this goes into the pockets of Gatwick’s owners without any benefit to local communities is simply untrue.
The airport and its concessionaires are significant local rate payers to Crawley Borough Council, and the airport also supports many charitable courses in Crawley and beyond.
Krishnan R Iyengar
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