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Foster renews plea for £15bn Thames Estuary hub airport

Norman Foster has revealed more detailed plans for a hub airport in the Thames Estuary more than six months after failing to impress the UK’s airports commission

The latest proposals challenge environmental, cost, delivery and access concerns surrounding the four-runway mega-hub.

The 100-page document responds to a call for additional Thames Estuary airport-supporting evidence and will be considered by the commission ahead of its final recommendations next year.

According to the highest-ranked AJ100 studio, a new London airport on the Isle of Grain would cost £15 billion and take only slightly longer to deliver than £11 billion plans for a third runway at Heathrow.

A short connecting spur to the high-speed rail network could furthermore place the 24-hour estuary airport within 26 minutes by train from St Pancras, Foster + Partners claimed.

Diagram showing surface access for proposed Thames Estuary airport

Diagram showing surface access for proposed Thames Estuary airport - click to view

A third Heathrow runway would meanwhile be full within a decade of opening and expose the capital to ‘unacceptable levels of risk, noise and pollution’ the practice concluded.

Foster said: ‘It is time to get serious about the issue of airport capacity. Britain needs an effective long-term solution, not the usual short-term fix that is Heathrow’s proposed third runway.’

He continued: ‘Rather than boosting growth, expansion at Heathrow would have the opposite effect. The unacceptable levels of risk, noise and pollution would threaten London’s leading reputation as a world city.’

The studio’s 1998 Chek Lap Kok airport – completed on a man-made island with a fast rail connection to Hong Kong city centre – illustrated the potential regeneration benefits for London Foster explained.

He said: ‘As in Hong Kong, Heathrow would unlock much needed space for London’s long-term growth.’

Foster concluded: ‘In terms of connectivity alone, the Thames Hub would serve 191 long-haul destinations, compared to Heathrow’s 126. London today needs to follow in the footsteps of its nineteenth-century forebears and invest boldly in infrastructure. Only long-term thinking will properly serve the demands of our future generations.’

The salvo comes six months after the review into UK aviation capacity poured cold water on plans for a huge hub airport in the Thames Estuary by recommending an extra runway at either Heathrow or Gatwick.

The Howard Davies-led commission’s interim report said it had not shortlisted any of the Thames Estuary options – including Gensler’s London Britannia Airport – because there were ‘too many uncertainties and challenges surrounding them at this stage’.

Schemes to expand Stansted – proposed by Make Architects and Brian Water/Avery Associates – and also Birmingham were also ruled out at the time.

Earlier this month Heathrow and Gatwick airports each submitted rival expansion schemes to the commission.

The two existing airports – respectively to the west and south of London – were favoured for enlargement in Howard Davies’ interim report published in December.

Gatwick – which is working with Terry Farrell – has argued its new runway would cost just £7.8 billion and would deliver £40 billion more for the economy than enlarging Heathrow.

London’s largest airport meanwhile claimed its new runway would impact fewer homes and could be delivered by 2025.

The airports commission will make its final recommendation to government after next year’s general election.


Read Foster + Partners full report and executive summary







Readers' comments (2)

  • Foster shouldn't confuse London with Britain - the location might well be convenient for London, but that's not the same as being convenient for Britain.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • Kunal Manani

    Governments own survey shows people in South and South-West of England make more journey than UK average. So infact they must keep Heathrow for the convenience of public even if they go ahead with Thames Estuary hub airport.

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