The view from Gatwick

London enjoys world-class air links. With 134 million passengers flying in and out each year, it’s the best-connected city in the world. Yet with a future capacity problem it begs the question: for how long?

Much is already changing in air travel. Low cost carriers continue to gain market share, orders for new long distance, hub-busting aircraft are increasing, and new hubs in the Middle East and Far East are growing rapidly – all of which reduce the relative importance of traditional transfer traffic through London. We have also seen a transformation within London itself. The three largest airports are now separately owned and have begun to compete. This is a real game-changer. 
 
Despite this, we are still told that it is only growth at our largest airport that matters. But London is a world city and destination in its own right: 87 per cent of passengers begin or end their journey here. It’s not a city people pass through. Only 13 per cent of passengers make up the transfer journeys we hear so much about. This proportion is likely to increase in the coming years, which means that despite what the proponents of creating a ‘mega hub’ at Heathrow or in the Thames Estuary might say, the importance of hub passengers in London is exaggerated. 
 
Policy should be framed around the travel needs of all passengers and not dictated solely by those who only want to change planes in London. Transfer passengers are important but they are in the minority. As the Airports Commission looks at  the options, it will need to ensure that any recommended solution is deliverable, environmentally sustainable, and has a strong business case behind it. A degree of political consensus is also key, as is the  need to deliver certainty to airlines, businesses and communities. 
 
Our vision for a two runway Gatwick, as part of a constellation of three major airports surrounding London, is affordable, deliverable, sustainable and promotes competition for the benefit of passengers. 
 
We believe a constellation model provides a better strategic fit for London and for the UK. It could be delivered at a fraction of the cost of a new airport in the Thames Estuary and would generate significantly less noise than a third runway at Heathrow. It will also be the most beneficial option for passengers, allowing competition between airports, better connections and affordability. Twenty two of the world’s 40 busiest cities for air travel successfully employ this model and have more than one airport serving their needs. 
 
Building the next runway at Gatwick would not only solve the capacity issue for a generation but allow us to collectively offer a greater selection of destinations to passengers. We have already invested over £1bn since the change of ownership in 2009. We’ve opened new direct routes to some of the fastest growing economies such as China, Russia and Vietnam. More competition will deliver the enhanced connectivity the UK economy needs. Where there is passenger demand, the market should be able to respond.
 
So far, the needs of passengers have been largely lost in the aviation debate. I believe they should be able to choose where to fly, when to fly, and who to fly with. In the longer term, capacity has to be matched to the passenger need. They want better value fares, new destinations, higher quality airports and more convenient door-to-door journeys every time they travel. Our option will deliver these benefits by creating multiple layers of choice for passengers.
 
Crucially though, noise impacts will be substantially lower than for Heathrow’s plans. A two runway Gatwick will affect fewer than 5 per cent of the people Heathrow impacts today. And unlike Heathrow, we will not breach European and national air quality standards.  
The Airports Commission has provided us with a unique opportunity to look to the future and develop a strategy which will benefit the UK for decades to come. Gatwick expansion will cost between £5bn and £9bn – a fraction of the cost of expansion at Heathrow – and a second runway can be open by 2025. Our runway plans are currently backed by local authorities and business groups. With the right political will, our vision is not only possible but the best. 
 
Stewart Wingate is chief executive of Gatwick Airport 
Gatwick's South Terminal. Photograph: Getty
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Forget gaining £350m a week, Brexit would cost the UK £300m a week

Figures from the government's own Office for Budget Responsibility reveal the negative economic impact Brexit would have. 

Even now, there are some who persist in claiming that Boris Johnson's use of the £350m a week figure was accurate. The UK's gross, as opposed to net EU contribution, is precisely this large, they say. Yet this ignores that Britain's annual rebate (which reduced its overall 2016 contribution to £252m a week) is not "returned" by Brussels but, rather, never leaves Britain to begin with. 

Then there is the £4.1bn that the government received from the EU in public funding, and the £1.5bn allocated directly to British organisations. Fine, the Leavers say, the latter could be better managed by the UK after Brexit (with more for the NHS and less for agriculture).

But this entire discussion ignores that EU withdrawal is set to leave the UK with less, rather than more, to spend. As Carl Emmerson, the deputy director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, notes in a letter in today's Times: "The bigger picture is that the forecast health of the public finances was downgraded by £15bn per year - or almost £300m per week - as a direct result of the Brexit vote. Not only will we not regain control of £350m weekly as a result of Brexit, we are likely to make a net fiscal loss from it. Those are the numbers and forecasts which the government has adopted. It is perhaps surprising that members of the government are suggesting rather different figures."

The Office for Budget Responsibility forecasts, to which Emmerson refers, are shown below (the £15bn figure appearing in the 2020/21 column).

Some on the right contend that a blitz of tax cuts and deregulation following Brexit would unleash  higher growth. But aside from the deleterious economic and social consequences that could result, there is, as I noted yesterday, no majority in parliament or in the country for this course. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.