England

Gatwick South Terminal pier demolition under way

New Gatwick pier
Image caption The replacement pier will have five aircraft stands and a new baggage system

Work has begun to demolish a pier linking Gatwick Airport's South Terminal to the aircraft boarding gates and replace it with a new building.

Pier One, which opened in 1962, was used by 1.86 million passengers last year.

The new building will have a baggage system allowing passengers to drop off bags as soon as they arrive without having to wait for check-in to open.

The £184m project is Gatwick's largest capital investment by its new owners.

Gatwick Airport Ltd took over three years ago after the Competition Commission ordered BAA to sell three of its seven UK airports.

Pier One is the second oldest in the South Terminal, opened by the Queen in 1958.

The new pier, which will open in the summer of 2015, will include taxi-way improvements on the airfield and is part of a £1.2bn refurbishment programme at the West Sussex airport. It will have five new aircraft stands.

"The commencement of demolition works is a significant milestone in Gatwick's transformation," said chief executive Stewart Wingate.

"The new pier and baggage project will provide passengers with a new and much-improved experience."

Gatwick has said it wants to handle up to 40 million passengers a year by 2020, up from the current 34 million.

A legal agreement prevents a second runway being built before 2019, but the airport has proposals for a new runway in the long term.

The government is currently undertaking a review of how airport capacity could be expanded in the South East.

Options include adding a third runway at Heathrow, adding a second runway at Gatwick and building a new airport in the Thames Estuary.

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