22 Dec 2010

Snow on the snow – at Gatwick

I am standing on a 20 foot high mound of congealed snow which stretches as far as my eye can see. This is part of some 250,000 tonnes of snow that have been cleared from this airport, Gatwick, in the last two weeks.

Gatwick has been blessed with some quick-witted leadership, that spotted six second-hand snow ploughs being sold off by Zurich airport. It has made all the difference.

The first big snow dump last week closed the airport for just four hours. The second, on Monday night, for less than 2 hours.

The disruption to passenger traffic has been far less than at Heathrow.

But then, the company that owns Gatwick, GIP – a private equity company –  is throwing very large sums of money at sorting this place out.

In total, they will be spending £1bn on renewing the entire airport. But on snow clearance alone, they are immediately spending £8m.

It will give them the snow clearing capacity of Norway’s Oslo airport. The Chief Executive, Stewart Wingate, told me that when the snow fell on Monday night, with the extra snow ploughs, they were able to run nine of these massive machines abreast down the runway and clear it in one go.

Plane movements here appear to be normal. 45 take-offs every hour. To Africa, Europe, the Far East and the Caribbean.



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