What now for airport expansion?

By | Category: Travel tips & opinions


On Thursday a new Secretary of State for Transport was appointed – Chris Grayling. He is the MP for Epsom and Ewell which is about 22 miles from Gatwick and 23 from Heathrow.

Virtually in the middle between the two airports vying for expansion, Grayling will also be right in the middle of the furore that will erupt when a decision is finally announced.

In the cabinet are two staunchly anti-Heathrow expansion zealots, by name Boris Johnson the Foreign Secretary and Justine Greening, the Education Secretary. Both along with Zac Goldsmith, MP for Richmond have virtually said Heathrow will expand over their dead bodies. Assuming they are still of the same mind, Theresa May can hardly afford to lose two cabinet ministers so early in her premiership. And she, as MP for Maidenhead, is not far from the Heathrow flightpath either.

and the man who will make the decision - Chris Grayling

and the man who will make the decision – Chris Grayling

Opposing Gatwick expansion, there seem to be no cabinet members who have constituencies that will be affected.  Grayling’s is the closest and, as I remember, Epsom and Ewell is more likely to be affected by stacking Heathrow flights rather than Gatwick ones. Most of those constituencies over which planes would fly are solid Conservative ones so if Gatwick was given the green light, it would annoy constituents but probably not enough to  cause the Tories to lose those seats.

Today, Gatwick announced that they were investing another £200 million on expanding the departure lounges in both terminals, upgrading retail outlets, increasing the area for immigration checks and adding more aircraft stands. This announcement was made during the visit of the new mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, who supports Gatwick expansion over Heathrow. After all, he has to be re-elected in a few years’ time and there are no potential voters in the Gatwick area but there are in Heathrow land. He was even quoted as saying “Gatwick is the front door to London for millions of visitors to our city…”  To me, the use of the words “front door” suggest he sees the future there not at Heathrow.

Based on this, if I was a betting man, I’d say that Gatwick was likely to get the nod when a decision is finally made.


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