Gatwick’s 3.3 km runway is undergoing rehabilitation work.
During the London Gatwick Airport Runway Rehabilitation Project an area of around 400,000 sq m will be resurfaced with 68,000 tonnes of asphalt. In addition, around 2,000 runway and taxiway lights, fed by 530km of electrical cabling, will also be replaced.
The main contractor on the £45 million project is Volker Fitzpatrick and the design engineer is Halcrow.
Derek Hendry, Construction Director at Gatwick Airport explained the project to Premier Construction. He said:
“Gatwick is the busiest single runway commercial airport in the world and obviously the runway is one of the most critical aspects for the success of our business. Every 12 to 15 years we need to go in and do some major rehabilitation work, replacing the asphalt as well as all the lighting, systems and cabling.
“On the project, we carry out the work between 9.30pm and 5.30am – our priority is to do it safely and to make sure we minimise disruption to the airlines and the passengers. We have a standby runway at Gatwick, so at 9.30pm the aircraft switch to the standby runway which allows us to work on the main runway.
“The standby runway is just that – it’s shorter than the main runway and it doesn’t have the same operating capabilities. We only close the main runway if the operating conditions are favourable and will allow flights to take off and land on the standby runway.”
The work commenced on site on 1st March 2012 and is due to be completed at the end of November 2012, with work taking place overnight to minimise the effects on both customers and airlines.
“The weather isn’t even a surprise, it’s a challenge. With the weather this summer, one of the challenges we had was that we lost considerably more shifts than we had anticipated. To deal with this, in agreement with the airlines, we moved to a 6pm start on Saturday evenings to make up for the time lost due to bad weather.
“Our key objective was to have the surfacing on the runway and the lighting on the runway finished by 1st October because after then you start to get into the winter season when working around the weather becomes much more difficult. I’m pleased to say we achieved that objective.
“We are nearing the end of the project – the runway has been resurfaced and of the 15 taxi-ways that link into the runway, two are still to be resurfaced. We will then replace lights on those taxi-ways and finish off some of the painting, drainage work and landscaping.”
As a result of the work, Gatwick Airport will have a runway with a new surface fit for operation for the next 10 to 15 years.
“With the new light fittings and cabling we can be confident we’re not going to have any unplanned problems on the runway. During the course of the project we got approval to fit LED lights on the runway, it didn’t come quite quick enough to fit them from the beginning of the project but we will by next summer.
“Whenever you resurface a runway, and this will be the fourth time I’ve been involved on this type of project, it is quite a significant logistical challenge. The key to success is planning, even on a nightly basis you have to plan each activity very carefully and you have to stick to that plan because you have to make sure that the runway re-opens at 5.30am.
“As part of this project the main objective was to resurface and relight the runway, but we also took the opportunity to improve the runways capabilities to handle A380 aircraft. We put some improvements in the taxi-ways to make it easier for them to handle A380 services and we are actively marketing ourselves for new services and A380 operations. We are doing some work with one of the aircraft stands to make sure it is A380 compliant by next summer.”
PAD 5 Airport Consulting Ltd
PAD 5 Airport Consulting Ltd specialises in providing expertise and practical support to a wide range of aviation stakeholders. During the London Gatwick Runway Rehabilitation Project, the role primarily focused on providing a crucial communications link between project construction teams and the airport client’s operational duty teams.
Operations Director Phil Davey said:
“The Gatwick Runway Rehabilitation Project has been particularly challenging due to a combination of factors. Being the world’s busiest single runway operation, Gatwick is always busy, even at night. A significant amount of project activity took place directly beside the active northern runway, so I had to ensure that site staff- some of whom had not worked at an airport before- fully understood and appreciated the potential hazards of working in such an environment. Allied to that, airport operational duty staff cannot be expected to possess a detailed understanding of construction issues. Therefore I carried out a role akin to a language translator, helping each side gain a better understanding of each other’s challenges, and helping to resolve a plethora of issues along the way.”
“It was a tactical role where I become involved with any project related situation that may have impacted on a successful runway hand back at shift end, or conversely any airport related incidents which could affect the smooth running of the project. Invariably, a fast and effective resolution was required, so the role demanded the ability to work well under pressure.”
“My primary airport relationships were with GAL Airfield Operations & External Security, but the Airport Fire Service and Airfield Engineering would also make information and access requests as required.”
“I think my 20 years previous experience in airfield operations and latterly, major airside projects, has been put to very good use at Gatwick. I have the tools, knowledge and experience to deliver significant operational benefits on any airside project large or small.”
BJP Site Engineering Services Ltd
Established in 2002, BJP Site Engineering Services Ltd specialise in setting out and land surveys.
The company has worked on a variety of projects during its 10 year history, including Reading Traincare Depot, East Kent Access Bypass, Dunraven School in Streatham and Norwood School in Croydon.
Barry Phillips from BJP Site Engineering Services Ltd said:
“At Gatwick Airport we did the setting out and asbuilt surveys for the new pit and duct system, drainage system and ironwork raising.
“This project was important to be involved with because it is high profile and provided new challenges by working at night.
“We pride ourselves in providing a good reliable service with good team integration and a good understanding of our duties within the site team.”
R J Lander Ltd
Established in 2000, R J Lander Ltd specialise in road sweeper hire, high pressure jet vac road sweepers and sales.
They have previously worked with EDF Energy on Hinkley Point, Carrillion on a project on the M4 motorway and Bovis Homes on Gloucester Quays.
Fiona Hodges from R J Lander Ltd said:
“On the Main Runway Rehabilitation Project at Gatwick Airport we provided high pressure jet vac road sweeping services.
“We pride ourselves in providing a quality service, 24hrs a day and using machinery that is no more than 3 years old.”
Emerson Contract Services Limited
ECS’s package at Gatwick Runway Rehabilitation Project initially started out as a £40,000 contract which included pre-casting blocks and plinths for incorporation into the runway permanent works. In light of their performance on the contract they were awarded all subsequent drainage and electrical pre-cast structures thus increasing their package by circa half a million.
ECS have delivered every aspect of their works on time, to the contractor’s satisfaction and without variance to advanced costings. They have managed programme constraints well and adapted confidently and appropriately to acceleration pressures, increasing and decreasing resources accordingly to comply both commercial and operational expectations.
ECS have reacted well to consistent design issues and the associated development they bring, implementing the resolutions efficiently with minimal direction and in a cost effective manner. ECS have been both operationally and commercially flexible in all aspects thus maintaining a good relationship with the contractor.
ECS also provide skilled labour for nightshift works on a recurring basis carrying out the raising of pits and gullies to accord with the contractor’s programme.
Vision Survey Ltd
Vision Survey was formed on the basis of 20 years experience and provides a range of services from utility surveying, 3D laser-scanning [BIM compliant], land surveying and drawing production. In addition they provide a specialist product, Permit-to-Dig Control, which enables safe and efficient working practices around buried services. This service has been delivered throughout the construction phase of some of the largest projects in the UK, most notably on the Olympics Park and on the CrossRail Project. Their surveyors work closely with client and contractor teams to ensure that the risk of service strikes and their inherent consequences are fully mitigated during invasive works.
John Gray, Managing Director at Vision Survey said:
“During the pre-construction phase of the Runway Rehabilitation Project at Gatwick Airport, Vision Survey carried out a series of comprehensive topographical surveys of the runway and its surrounds, producing detailed drawings to show those findings. This enabled the successful completion of the design phase of this project.
“Vision Survey has a proud and sustained record in the Aviation sector in the south east and this was a flagship project at Gatwick airport. We worked alongside the main contractor Volker Fitzpatrick at the Olympic Park, and this project served to further develop our working relationship.
“We place much value on delivering a quality service to our client base and we have a strong level of client retention. We differentiate ourselves from our competitors through our record of engagement in large projects in the provision of a range of surveying services throughout the project life-cycle.”