Gatwick Airport: South Terminal departures revamp

I've just visited the opening of the new departure lounge at Gatwick Airport in West Sussex.

Here's an extended interview I did with the transport minister, Theresa Villiers.

The new owners have spent £45m on revamping the South Terminal, and it is noticeable.

New clear signage, new restaurants, new pubs - and in security, 19 lanes and new facial-recognition technology.

They unashamedly say they are taking on Heathrow.

Image copyright PA
Image caption The new scanning system has been introduced in the South Terminal at the airport in West Sussex

Passengers will be able to get through security in five minutes, it is hoped.

The facial-recognition software means domestic passengers have their faces scanned and staff can match them with their boarding cards after the large shopping area in Departures.

It will ensure they do not end up on the international flights which all go through the same area.

All of this sits very nicely with the government's policy of making airports better, not bigger.

Noise and pollution

But calls from the aviation industry are again growing for expansion in south-east England.

There is concern about losing trade and jobs to other hubs such as Schiphol in Amsterdam and Charles de Gaulle in Paris.

The government's currently consulting on its aviation policy.

It has ruled out expansion at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick.

This is what the minister said to me when I asked her if the coalition could rule out expansion forever:

"We've never said we'll block all expansion everywhere forever.

"And so in due course, if there were proposals for expansion, we'd consider them.

"But, as I say, the coalition has made its position clear on no runways at Heathrow, Stansted and Gatwick."

That might cause concern to anti-expansion campaigners who live close to airports.

Many of them are blighted by noise and pollution.

This is one issue the aviation industry will not drop.

The challenge for this government is the same as the last - balancing those opposing views.