Gatwick raises the stakes with Heathrow in airport expansion battle

Gatwick CEO Stewart Wingate.

In a move which raises the stakes in the ongoing battle between Gatwick and Heathrow Airports to be the government’s choice for a new runway for London, Gatwick Airport has today launched a tender to find design and infrastructure partners to help plan its proposed £9bn runway.

Infrastructure Intelligence reported last week that Gatwick was set to begin talks with contractors and consultants over its second runway proposals, which included new projects worth £1.2bn. This latest move shows that Gatwick is keen to keep itself at the forefront of the race to be the government’s preferred choice when it decides on airport expansion in the summer. 

Gatwick’s tender package will initially be worth up to £5m, but the winning bidders will automatically qualify for a £200m design framework provided Gatwick gets the nod from the government for a second runway. Rival Heathrow is believed to be in the final stages of talks with several firms to choose preferred bidders for four packages for its third runway. According to industry insiders, Atkins, Arup, Mace and Jacobs are believed to be among those in the running for the packages, which together are worth around £5m.

The Gatwick contract includes the key infrastructure planning for the second runway, including the design of the runway itself and also other infrastructure like taxiways and hangars. The tender is the third package of works to be announced by Gatwick following its launch of bidding for a design framework for projects above £5m and works below £5m over the next five years.

Both frameworks will cover the architectural, civil and structural and engineering design for future construction projects at the airport and are worth £70m in total.

Commenting on the tender announcement, Gatwick development director Raymond Melee said: “The publication of three new frameworks sends a clear message to the industry that Gatwick has a pipeline of major construction work that will satisfy all types of construction industry partners. We are investing £2.5 billion to transform our airport and continue to drive growth, while we wait for the green light to start building our second runway. With frameworks spanning a five year time-frame, it’s important that potential partners in the runway build are included in these frameworks so that we can keep the process moving forward.”

With Gatwick and Heathrow airports currently competing to secure a new runway for London, this latest Gatwick move ups the ante as transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin announced last week that he hopes a decision would be made by July.

The Airports Commission recommended in July 2015 that Heathrow should be the location for a new London runway and contractors and developers including Balfour Beatty, Laing O’Rourke and Mace came out in favour of Heathrow expansion last week in a letter to chancellor George Osborne.

Expansion at Heathrow remains in real doubt however given the opposition of both Sadiq Khan and Zack Goldsmith, the Labour and Conservative candidates in the forthcoming London mayoral election.

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