Concourse of Gatwick Airport station

Gatwick Airport station gets off to a flying start

The upgraded Gatwick Airport station opened to passengers on the morning of 21 November 2023 Network Rail

The UK infrastructure agency Network Rail has cleared Gatwick Airport’s vastly refurbished station for take-off. A bigger and better Gatwick Airport Station had been promised by the quarter of a billion-pound makeover. The initial consensus is that the project has delivered. Months of re-engineering has gone into the complete transformation of the station that serves London’s second airport, and one of the busiest air terminals in Europe.

Gatwick Airport station serves a wide customer base of millions of commuters and air travellers. It has been the subject of a quarter-billion pound upgrade, managed by Network Rail, Britain’s rail infrastructure agency. The new and improved Gatwick Airport station officially opened its doors on Tuesday (21 November) amid much fanfare.

Wider network enhanced by the new station

If you are going to spend upwards of 249 million pounds (291 million euros) on an intermediate station on the Brighton to London line, then you better make it a good one. The initial impression is that Gatwick Airport station has delivered on its promise. Gone is the reminder of sixties brutalism, and in comes a twenty-first-century functionality, dressed up as seamless connectivity between train and plane.

New escalators on platform 5 and 6 at Gatwick Airport station
Going up in the world. New passenger transfer facilities at Gatwick Airport station

“We are proud to have worked with our partners to deliver a station upgrade that makes journeys to the airport much easier for all passengers and encourages people to ditch the car and travel by rail”, said Lucy McAuliffe, Network Rail Sussex route director. “This project is not just for those making their way to the airport, the work benefits passengers across the region by giving them quicker journeys and a more reliable timetable.”

New belle on the Brighton line

The station, a vital hub in the Southern region, has undergone a substantial transformation, featuring a brand new second concourse and airport entrance. The expansion, which effectively doubles the available space, aims to accommodate the growing number of passengers that pass through Gatwick Airport each year. “This bigger, better and brighter new station concourse will dramatically improve the experience for our passengers”, said Jonathan Pollard, Chief Commercial Officer at London Gatwick Airport. “The number of passengers getting to the airport by rail is growing steadily and now over forty per cent use the train. This fantastic new, fully accessible station concourse will encourage even more passengers to come to the airport using sustainable public transport.”

Aircraft overhead of the new Gatwick station
High flyer. An aircraft overhead of the new Gatwick station on the London to Brighton Main Line

Passengers on Tuesday’s 05.48 Thameslink Bedford to Brighton service were the first to experience the enhanced facilities, including the new concourse and entrance. “Key improvements include the installation of eight new escalators, five lifts, four stairways, and widened platforms”, says Network Rail. “Commuters on the Brighton Main Line are already reaping the rewards of the project, with track upgrades contributing to reduced journey times between Brighton and London, some now as quick as one hour.” They can perhaps be forgiven for omitting to note that, historically, that one-hour timing was possible on the non-stop expresses of the 1950s – but then again, there was no Gatwick Airport stop in the days of the Brighton Belle, and Caravelles and Corsairs.

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is UK correspondent for RailTech.com and Railfreight.com

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