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Government to launch consultation on Thames airport

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A consultation will be held over proposals to build a new airport in the Thames Estuary, it was reported today

The government is planning to launch the study in March into the proposal for a transport super-hub east of London designed by Foster + Partners, according to the BBC.

Working with consultant engineer Halcrow, the practice revealed details of their own, self-funded £100,000 vision for a £50 billion air and train hub on the Isle of Grain site at the end of last year.

The Mayor of London Boris Johnson is an avid supporter of the Estuary airport concept and has previously warned that the country could face ‘increasing economic paralysis’ unless a new hub airport is built.

Johnson, who is seeking re-election as mayor in May, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning: ‘The difficulty would not be the financing of the airport per se… the difficulty obviously would be in the infrastructure, connectivity between the airport and central London, and that’s why the consultation is essential.’

The mayor repeated his earlier claims that Heathrow was ‘fundamentally in the wrong place’ and should not be expanded, adding: ‘We can’t go on expecting Britain to compete with France, Germany and other European countries when we simply can’t supply the flights to these growth destinations - China, Latin America.’

Other supporters warn that the UK’s only hub airport at Heathrow is now running at 98 per cent of its capacity and the country is already losing out in the international trade market.

They said foreign investors have already shown ‘significant interest’ in the Foster vision. Leading economist Bridget Rosewell, who argued the economic case for Crossrail and has backed the hub vision, spoke to AJ’s sister publication Construction News about the plan last year.

Today’s news comes just a week after the Department for Transport gave the go ahead for High Speed 2.

Speaking on behalf of the team, Huw Thomas partner Foster + Partners, said: ‘We welcome media reports that the government is considering the case for an estuary airport, and the extra airport capacity that it can provide, when it consults in March on options for retaining the UK’s aviation hub status as part of the nation’s aviation strategy.

‘We are committed to working with government and wider industry stakeholders to put in place the transport connections Britain needs to encourage growth, job creation and trade with the rest of the world, particularly the emerging economies. This is an opportunity to reassert Britain’s role as a global hub and an international gateway.’

He added: ‘We are aware that there is some confusion between our Thames Hub vision and the Mayor of London’s Shivering Sands proposals, which have become known as ‘Boris’ Island”, continues Huw.

‘The Mayor has expressed his support for the Thames Hub proposal, as have Douglas Oakervee and Bridget Rosewell, who developed the Boris Island proposals, and who are now part of the Thames Hub team.

‘We believe that the economic case for the Thames Hub is compelling as Britain is already losing out to expanding European hubs. Our proposal comprehensively addresses the infrastructure needed to maximise the advantages of a new airport. The Thames Hub and proposed new airport project is part of a wider UK-wide initiative to bring together rail, freight logistics, aviation, energy generation and transmission, flood protection and regional development. Recognising the synergies between these different strands, it reaps the benefits of their integration.’

Thames Hub components (Foster + Partners/Halcrow vision)

A new barrier crossing that extends flood protection to London and the Thames Gateway, harnessing tidal power to generate carbon-free energy

A four-track, high-speed passenger and freight Orbital Rail route around London, which links London’s radial lines, a future high-speed rail line to the Midlands and the North, the Thames Estuary ports, High Speed 1 (Channel Tunnel to London), and European networks

An Estuary Airport, capable of handling 150 million passengers per year, integrated within a logistics matrix that connects by rail the Thames Estuary Ports and the ports of Liverpool, Southampton and Felixstowe. Associated with the Hub is a major renewable energy source in the estuary.

A new utilities and data spine in the Thames Barrier, Orbital Rail line and high-speed networks, stretching across the UK

A comprehensive environmental management strategy that minimises the impact of development.

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