Croydon will benefit from increasingly closer links with Gatwick Airport, irrespective of expansion proposals, according to former transport minister Steve Norris.
In his role as co-chair of the Gatwick Growth Board, Mr Norris outlined work being done over the next decade to improve an airport that does more than 40million passengers movements a year, putting it among the busiest single runway aiports in the world.
In a keynote speech at the seventh Develop Croydon Conference, Mr Norris revealed the airport was committed to spending £1.5billion over the next decade to make the most of its existing runways, absolutely regardless over any decision over a second runway at Gatwick.
“On the most optimistic analysis, by the time you go through the planning process, it will be around 2025 before anybody is able to open another runway,” said Mr Norris.
“What that does that not mean is that nothing is happening in the interim and that’s really what the growth board is concentrating on.”
A new railway station is being delivered at the airport while the opening of Thameslink in 2018 will bring with it block signalling, which will reduce the headway between trains to around three minutes allowing a far more regular service to Croydon and central London.
“It effectively means we’ll be doubling the rail connections within a decade,” said Mr Norris.
“It makes the link between Croydon and Gatwick very obvious. Three per cent of Gatwick employees already come from Croydon which might not sound like a large proportion but it’s double the percentage from only two or three years ago. and there is a huge potential to increase that number.”
Mr Norris also outlined the role Gatwick has to play in enhancing Croydon as a business destination.
“Connecting Croydon to the world is quite important. The linkage with Gatwick, gives Croydon as a business centre, the opportunity to be able to connect to the rest of the world in pretty substantial style, 220 destinations in 80 countries. That of course is growing.
“The biggest expansion in long haul in the UK over the last five years has been at Gatwick. Gatwick is increasingly becoming a global airport and this can help Croydon to develop and take its rightful place as effectively a very significant city in its own right.
“Croydon has got a great ambition and as somebody involved in London politics for last 30 years I think it’s terrific to see the impetus about trying to make much more of Croydon than simply the home of the immigration office and an awful lot of peripheral development.
“It has a real sense of ambition and a real determination to deliver it. Well that’s really where Gatwick is too. Gatwick is a very determined owner, it’s a long-term owner of the facility and intends to make it a world-class facility, serving London and in particular serving boroughs like Croydon.”