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Gatwick In The Battle For The UK's Second Airport

Aug 15, 2008
The second largest airport in Britain is London's Gatwick; it has managed to secure this position even without the addition of a second runway, unlike nearby Heathrow. It is estimated that over the last twelve months over 35 million passenger passed through the airport, it is hoped however that through further expansion that his number will be increased in the coming years. Naturally part of this attempted increase will include the creation of far more destinations and the construction of auxiliary services such as hotels, car hire desks, shops and restaurants.

Throughout its existence Gatwick has played second fiddle to Heathrow in terms of the country's largest and busiest. Despite this primacy Gatwick was the first to realise the importance of having a direct rail link with the capital. The rail ink runs from the airport to Victoria Station, originally it was designed to allow travellers from the centre of London to enter the airport without having to brave the elements at any stage in their journey. This meant constructing a tunnel from the platform to the terminal; the tunnel however posed problems as the Gatwick site was prone to flooding, meaning that travellers were greeted with a site that looked more like Venice than Gatwick. The tunnel was eventually closed but the rail link still exists.

Gatwick's position in second however was in no way secured throughout the last century. During the post war period, the site had to compete with Stansted in Essex for government expansion plans. Eventually however Gatwick won the battle and was expanded to become the capital's second major airport. Thanks to this success the Crawley area has been provided with a ready source of employment. This employment consists of airport staff, car hire employees, shops assistants as well as waiters and bar staff. Why the government chose Gatwick was probably due to a closer proximity to London as well as being more suitable for the construction of transport links.

As the motorway network was built up Gatwick was suitably placed to take advantage of both the M25 and the M23 meaning that car hire companies were more than happy to exploit this preferential position and advertise it as the perfect gateway to tour the south of England and beyond.

Gatwick has two runways although due to the proximity of these runways they cannot be used simultaneously. Airport chiefs ideally would like to expand the site and construct another runway for increased usage. There is a problem however, as part of the original construction agreement Gatwick was limited to one runway as the surrounding area had a protection order placed upon it. The time limit for this order though is rapidly approaching; within a decade they will be able to challenge the order for further expansion. At this present time, while Gatwick is restricted, Stansted, the site's original rival will most probably gain a second runway, considerably improving its passenger numbers; it may even overtake the Gatwick site in the coming years.

For the time being the only option for airport chiefs is to improve the host of services that now fill the terminals. Part of this will implement an improvement in auxiliary services such as shops, restaurants and car hire desks.

The second spot in the UK's major airport list is hotly contested. While Heathrow is assured in the prime position, Gatwick, Manchester and Stansted are all battling each other to make number two. With Stansted expansion, Gatwick will find it hard to cling onto second unless they can expand and improve their existing services.
About the Author
Air travel expert Thomas Pretty looks into how car hire Gatwick airport services are fundamental in the site's future development.
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