‘Overcrowded’ station to undergo £150m upgrade
Many UK visitors to Madeira will travel through Gatwick Airport, which is not always the most enjoyable of experiences. Various media outlets were reporting yesterday that its “overcrowded” railway station is set to undergo a £150 million upgrade starting next year.
Significant improvements will be made to the West Sussex station to improve passenger flow, the Department for Transport announced on Monday. Work will also include doubling the size of the concourse and widening two platforms. At the moment, many airline travellers – many with heavy luggage – struggle to make their way through the station due to its restrictions.
The number of people travelling to the airport by train each year has grown by six million since 2010, reaching a total of around 20 million. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling, quoted in the Evening Standard, told the PA: “The station is overcrowded. It’s got both rising demand from the airport but also rising demand from the surrounding area. There are plans to build a business park alongside the airport. It’s absolutely essential that we have a station here that is fit for purpose. At the moment the concourse is too crowded, the platforms are too narrow.”
Planned upgrades also include five more lifts and eight escalators. Gatwick Airport chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “Gatwick has been transformed in recent years and the redesigned train station will take the airport’s redevelopment to the next level by providing a seamless transition between the airport and the station”. The DfT said the station is not designed for the current volume of passengers, particularly those carrying bulky luggage.
At the moment a large section of the concourse at Gatwick station is given over to a queuing system for passengers buying tickets from machines. Mr Grayling said making it easier for passengers on Britain’s railways to pay for travel using a smartphone app is “one of the things that are clearly going to have to happen”. He went on: “There are always going to be some people who are going to come in and need to or want to buy a ticket from a machine. But hopefully, in the future, we’ll have far fewer ticket machines.”
Improvements at Gatwick will start in spring 2020 and are expected to take around two years to complete. The DfT said the work will be scheduled to “ensure minimum disruption”. The renovation will be managed by government-owned Network Rail in partnership with the DfT. The airport’s owner, Gatwick Airport Ltd, and Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership are co-funding the project with £37 million and £10 million respectively.
Gatwick airport was recently taken over by Vinci Airports, the operator of most Portuguese airports including Madeira, as reported here in December 2018.