New Rapid Exit Taxiway Opens at London Gatwick

London Gatwick (LGW) and its contractor PJ Hegarty have completed an infrastructure project to bring the airport’s new Rapid Exit Taxiway (RET) into operation.

The new taxiway enables arriving aircraft to leave the runway more efficiently to help reduce delays and cut aircraft emissions, thus contributing towards the airport’s sustainability targets.

During its first four days of operation, the new RET was used by more than half (56 percent) of all arrivals at LGW.

New London Gatwick taxiway to help reduce delays and cut aircraft emissions
New London Gatwick taxiway to help reduce delays and cut aircraft emissions

Previously, some aircraft landing at LGW would narrowly miss the first taxiway to exit the runway. This was especially likely if they landed later than anticipated, had weather conditions that made braking more challenging or were flying with a heavier load than normal. In these cases, the aircraft had to travel slowly along the runway to the next taxiway exit, which could take an extra 20 seconds or more.

The new RET will now enable arriving aircraft to leave the main runway at a more optimal location after landing. This will help the runway perform more consistently while supporting all pilots, particularly those who are less familiar with London Gatwick.

Thanks to the new taxiway, a greater number of pilots are now able to take the first exit. If they miss it, the time to the second exit is also much lower, meaning they are less likely to impact the schedule of other aircraft.

This change will help Air Traffic Controllers to be more confident in the performance of landing aircraft, therefore reducing delays, the likelihood of go-arounds, and holding times for aircraft waiting to depart. In doing so, emissions and noise pollution will also be reduced.

Gavin Sillitto, Transformation Programme Lead, London Gatwick said:

“Every project where you are building next to a live runway is complex, but we have a great result thanks to fantastic teamwork across the airport and with our contractor, PJ Hegarty.

“For aircraft exiting the runway, it is like the speed of turning onto a motorway slip road rather than onto a suburban street. Putting an exit in a place which is natural for how pilots normally brake, that can handle aircraft exiting safely at higher speeds, increasing resilience, reducing delays and limiting carbon and noise emissions.”

Construction on this project initially began in 2020 but was paused due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The project was then reviewed, which resulted in a redesign reducing construction carbon emissions from the original plan by more than 10 percent.

Andrew Isted, Senior Project Manager, London Gatwick said:

“As this project was paused during Covid, we used the period prior to restarting to undertake a Value Engineering phase to rationalise and optimise the design. Carried out alongside AtkinsRéalis and PJ Hegarty, we targeted areas where we believed the greatest gains could be achieved. We challenged our standards, constraints and reviewed geometrical requirements.  This generated significant savings in pavement thickness and area, drainage requirements and existing pavement breakout, to name a few.

“We were delighted to complete the project with no impact to or complaints from the local community, with our contractors operating carefully and safely, and often at night, in a busy operational environment.”

This project is part of London Gatwick’s investment in its long-term future. Notably, the airport has also submitted a planning application to bring its Northern Runway into regular use. This application is currently undergoing detailed examination by the Planning Inspectorate.

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