MIAMI – Today in Aviation, London Gatwick Airport (LGW) reopened its gates on June 9, 1958, after a rebuilding project, becoming the first multimodal airport in the world.
Queen Elizabeth II officially opened the South Terminal, saying that the airfield incorporated the latest design techniques to combine air, rail, and road links, according to historical files of LGW.
It was the world’s first airport with a direct railway link, quickly gaining a variety of British, European, American, African, and Caribbean Airlines.
At the time, more airlines joined as airports such as London Croydon closed.
The no longer existing British European Airways (BEA) made the first flight to Jersey, Channel Islands after it transferred most of the route from London Heathrow (LHR) to LGW.
From an Aerodrome to an Airport
Officially the second airport of London since the early 1950s, LGW was first designed as an aerodrome in the 1920s to later service commercial operations in the 1930s.
With its first terminal built, “The Beehive”, the airfield started it first scheduled flights in 1936. But as World War II began to rage, Gatwick was put under military control.
Once the war ended, civilian operations were allowed again and major development work began in 1956.
Prior to the announcement, the airship remained closed, so the expansion implied a new reality for the neighbors of the area.
Regarding this, the Queen said, “I sympathize with all those people whose lives are going to be affected by this airport.”
“But I hope that there will be some measure of compensating advantage to local inhabitants when it is in full operation,” added her Majesty.
Design Plan for Air, Rail and Road Transport Links
Under “the new London Airport” plan, the design included a pier or “finger” building that allows passengers to board planes undercover.
Additionally, a new terminal, the South one, was developed to be larger and more modern than the one built in 1935.
While the new roofed structure was the first ever built at a British airfield, trunk road and rail facilities into one unit were also part of LGW’s rebuilding, at the time worth over £7m as reported by the BBC.
An so, the builders acquired more land and diverted the A23 road between London and Brighton around the new LGW’s boundary.
Regarding the train connection, as the 1935 railway station closed, the owners of the Southern Railway, Imperial Airways, and airport built a new station within the airport terminal complex placed on the old racecourse station and connected via underground.
LGW, 1960s. Photo: Phillip Capper from Wellington, New Zealand, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons