The government has agreed to a £150 million upgrade to Gatwick Airport’s railway station to cope with current and growing demand.
Formerly known as Gatwick Racecourse station, the current station was opened by British Rail in May 1958, and major works were carried out in the late 1960s and 1980s, and again in 2014. Even with these improvements, the existing design appears to be unable to handle the large volumes of passengers that now pass through the concourse space and platforms, especially at peak times.
The issues are made worse by the large volumes of baggage, and the higher-than-normal level of passenger unfamiliarity with the station and the rail system
Most airports that have rail links often take people to their nearest city and to a terminus station. Gatwick’s reach is also unusually large, largely thanks to the dual links to London Victoria, and to Thameslink passing right through the centre of London. Following the completion of the Thameslink programme, it’s estimated that 15 million people – almost a quarter of UK population – are now within 60 minutes of Gatwick by rail.
Understandably, the old station needs an upgrade to cope. Unfortunately, over the years, the current station has been hemmed in by other buildings and facilities leaving little space to grow.
Ideally, they’d rebuild the whole thing as a large new station to the south with a lot more platforms, where there’s enough space, so that it can cope with the expected demand, and put in space if an expected 2nd runway is built.
Sadly, not only would that be considerably more expensive to build from scratch, in the modern funding model, there’s limited opportunity to do anything where the old station stands.
So it’s another upgrade of the existing buildings.
Planned upgrades will include doubling the size of the station concourse, adding 5 new lifts and 8 escalators to improve passenger flow, and widening platforms to reduce overcrowding. They plan to widen platforms 5,6 & 7, and construct a new station entrance spanning platforms 4-7. New lifts and escalators will be added to platforms 5-7.
Core to the plans are to create two separate entrances and exits for the station to reduce congestion with people passing in opposite directions in the one ticket hall area. The existing concourse will be de-cluttered and become a new entry only concourse space. A new concourse built over the platforms would provide an exit only route from the Station platforms to the South and North Terminals
Early indications had been that the existing ticket hall would be demolished, but as it is being preserved, it’s likely that the UK’s largest British Rail sign — on the roof — will remain intact.
The renovation will be managed by Network Rail, in partnership with DfT. Gatwick Airport and Coast to Capital Local Enterprise Partnership are co-funding the project with £37 million and £10 million respectively.
The £150 million budget is however £30 million higher than originally estimated back in 2014.
The final master plan for the upgrades will be published later in 2019.
The improvement works are due to start in Spring 2020 and will take around two years to complete.