Gatwick Airport Runway
The image of a second runway was presented by Stewart Wingate, London Gatwick CEO, and Sir Terry Farrell, the UK's leading architect planner Farrells / Gatwick Airport

Gatwick Airport bosses have revealed for the first time that development of a second runway could start as soon as 2020.

The news came as architects presented their visions of what a modernised Gatwick would look like if the Airports Commission decides the airport would be the best option to handle additional airline capacity in the hope of boosting international trade.

The commission, led by Sir Howard Davies, last year shortlisted Gatwick and Heathrow Airport as the best possible options for development, but an Isle of Grain airport in the Thames Estuary, which is known as 'Boris Island', is being further studied.

Gatwick has committed to start building a new runway before the end of the next parliament, which would mean by 2020 at the latest, with the first flights taking off by the end of 2025.

An expanded Gatwick would help the UK connect to 27 more destinations than a third runway at Heathrow (442 vs 415 destinations served from London).

The same research also shows that a second runway, as part of the network of airports surrounding London, would cater for 11 million more passengers each year by 2050 than a three-runway Heathrow.

Gatwick Airport Travel Links
Gatwick Airport would benefit from a a rejuvenated transport hub Farrells / Gatwick Airport

Stewart Wingate said: "The next runway needs to bring the greatest economic return for the UK at the lowest environmental cost.

"That makes Gatwick the obvious answer as we will be able to connect to more destinations in the future because we are the only airport to cater for all airline models. It is the best solution that embraces long term aviation trends.

"It can also be delivered in less time with less cost and less noise. Most importantly, passengers will benefit from more choice and better value for money. If chosen - and with swift decision making - we are committing today to start work on site in the next Parliament."

Sir Terry Farrell said: "I have no doubt that with a second runway, Gatwick will deliver more balanced, and more widely spread, economic growth for London and the South East. Expansion at Gatwick could do for South London and the wider region what the Olympics did for East London and give a huge boost in terms of jobs, housing and regeneration."

Boris Johnson
London Mayor Boris Johnson wants a new airport in Thames Estuary

The presentation of images came as a study into the feasibility of an airport in the Thames Estuary, favoured by London Mayor Boris Johnson, edged closer.

A consultation on what the main points should be when considering Boris Island received just 29 responses.

Concerns raised included the engineering feasibility of the ambitious project, the cost of which has been estimated at £24bn, and environmental ones.

What is Boris Island?

Boris Island
An airport in the Thames Estuary, known as 'Boris Island', is favoured by the Mayor of London Foster and partners

The idea for an aiport in the Thames Estuary has been floating around since the 1970s.

It was seen as an alternative to Gatwick, Heathrow and Stanstead, which are all built near built-up areas.

Proposals for a Thames Estuary hub have been mooted for Maplin Sands off Foulness on the north side of the estuary; Cliffe and the Isle of Grain in Kent on the south side.

London Mayor Boris Johnson proposed one off the Isle of Sheppey that would be opened in 2029 with an initial handling capacity of 110 million passengers per annum.