Leading industry experts, Arup, have published a report - Supporting UK growth and global market access: the case for high quality rail services to Gatwick Airport.
The report outlines a vision for ensuring that the UK’s busiest rail network and its second largest airport are properly integrated, supporting the UK’s future international connectivity and the needs of the commuter.
If Britain is to compete on a global stage it must have strong air links to the emerging markets.
The UK trades about twenty times as much with countries with daily (or better) direct flight connections as it does with countries with poor connectivity.
Gatwick currently operates at around 78 per cent capacity so is able to accommodate more flights and support the economic wellbeing of the UK.
Gatwick has already opened new routes to key trading partners, including direct routes to China, Hong Kong, South Korea & Vietnam.
Rail links however are critical to attracting new airlines: research shows that airlines rate surface access to an airport as one of the top three critical reasons for locating there.
Commenting on the report, Guy Stephenson, Gatwick Airport’s chief commercial officer, said: “Passengers’ journeys from plane to train to the heart of London from Gatwick are the fastest and most convenient of all London airports and airlines are choosing to operate from Gatwick because of our connectivity to London.
“However, the report shows that a passenger’s impressions of Gatwick’s rail links lag behind other London airports and the capabilities of the trains on the Gatwick Express rank below equivalents at Heathrow, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Stockholm airports.
“We have the capacity to handle more flights and strengthen our country’s trade links with emerging markets. But if Gatwick is to continue attracting the new routes the economy needs, its rail links must improve in quality and extent.”
Enhancing the rail links is critical: the number of people travelling between Gatwick and London by rail could increase by 30 per cent in eight years and the number of non-air passengers travelling on the same services could grow by 29 per cent.
With limited capacity on rail networks in the South East, a clear balance must be struck between Government, the train operators and Network Rail around catering for the needs of both airport passengers and commuters.
A win-win solution is possible, and without this it will be difficult for Gatwick to grow to support the UK economy’s demand for international connectivity.
The report, prepared by Arup, proposes that any new proposed rail franchise should seek to cater for the needs of air passengers and commuters in the South East, and should require rail links to and from Gatwick to be improved.
In particular, any new operator must provide a direct, express rail link to London with new carriages and re-introduce an on-board ticketing service.