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Foster reveals self-funded proposal for a four-runway airport in the Thames Estuary

Foster + Partners has unveiled its vision for a £50 billion transport hub in the Thames Estuary, featuring a new airport built on reclaimed land

The Thames Hub study, which has been jointly funded by Norman Foster’s practice and infrastructure consultants Halcrow, includes plans for a tidal energy barrage and a major new flood protection barrier.

Even before the study’s official publication yesterday, the scheme had come in for criticism from wildlife campaigners, local politicians and architect Terry Farrell.

Promoting his own ‘hub’ in north-west London, Farrell attacked the ‘unsustainable’ Foster proposals for the Isle of Grain, east of the capital, claiming improved rail links between London’s existing airports was the more cost-effective solution.

However, the Foster scheme also includes a new London Orbital rail link, as well as a technical spine providing underground routes for high-voltage power, broadband fibre and water distribution ‘integrated within the new flood barrier and rail routes’.

Thames Hub factfile

The team believes the Thames Hub could bring £150 billion of benefits, including increased airport tax revenues and £75 billion from growth in the area. Norman Foster said that the hub ‘would not need to depend on public funding’, and suggested the project would be of ‘significant interest’ to inward investment, including sovereign wealth funds.

He added: ‘We have to have the courage, political will, intelligence and the common sense to invest now in our infrastructure. If we don’t, then we are denying future generations. So I do not believe we have a choice.’

‘We need to recapture the foresight and political courage of our 19th-century forebears if we are to establish modern transport and energy infrastructure in Britain for this century and beyond.’

The proposed hub airport, showing ground access, layout, port and tidal array

The proposed hub airport, showing ground access, layout, port and tidal array

Readers' comments (2)

  • Kevan Shaw

    Is there another plan to fund this by selling off Heathrow land for housing:)

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  • John Kellett

    I always thought that runways were aligned to allow take off into the wind. To have all four aligned East - West when the prevailing wind is usually from the SW seems odd. Taking off in a strong Northerly would appear to be compromised too.
    Surely it would make sense to utilise spare capacity at existing airport locations and/or redundant RAF bases around the country rather than 'insist' everyone travels to and from London, increasing transport issues.

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