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NEWS Last modified on July 19, 2013

Thames Estuary Airport plan officially presented to UK's Airports Commission

Foster + Partners has formally submitted plans for a new four-runway hub airport on the Isle of Grain in the Thames Estuary to the government’s Airports Commission.

The Thames Hub Airport proposal has been advocated by Mayor of London, Boris Johnson and has been developed with the support of a number of leading organisations.

The new hub airport can open in 2029 with capacity for 110 million passengers per year at a €27 billion, and has the flexibility to grow to 150mppa. 

According to the submission, the majority of flights can approach the airport over water, relieving five million Londoners of the noise, pollution and dangers of flight paths over the capital.

The submission also states that unlike Heathrow, the airport can operate 24-hours a day.

And Foster+Partners claim that the airport has a viable private funding model, which ensures that it will be financially sustainable and can achieve a fair price for passengers and airlines.

The proposed site capitalises on the eastward thrust of London’s development and existing investments in high-speed rail, reducing the need for additional surface access by connecting with High Speed 1, High Speed 2 and Crossrail.

Journey times by rail from St Pancras would be just 26 minutes, or 40 minutes by rail from Waterloo, says the submission.

The Thames Hub Airport is also strategically located close to the South East’s major ports, including the new Dubai Port World’s Thames Gateway, to enable the successful economic integration of rail, sea and air freight, state its supporters, who claim that under current legislation, the planning process would be identical to a third runway at Heathrow.

And it is believed that givem the go-ahead, the Thames Hub Airport could open within 16 years – about the same time as it is estimated that it will take to build a new, third runway at Heathrow.

Finally, the submission argues that fewer homes would be relocated than at Heathrow and, without the constraints of an urban site and operational airport, it would be more cost-effective to build. 

It adds that the new gateway could be developed in phases according to demand, allowing for the creation of "a prosperous new London borough and a sustainable commercial centre to rival Canary Wharf".

Following the submission of Foster+Partners’ proposals, Lord Foster commented: “The infrastructure of a nation can never be taken for granted. Only for so long can we trade on an inheritance from the past.

"Heathrow, with its military origins, is a case in point. There is a limit to how much it can be patched up and enlarged – even for the needs of today, let alone tomorrow – and would you ever choose a location which dictates flight paths over the heart of London?

"We have reached a point where we must act, in the tradition of those Victorian forebears and create afresh – to invest now and safeguard future generations. Why should we fall behind when we could secure a competitive edge?"

He added: "The choice is not about time or money. A new four-runway true hub airport in the Thames Estuary, at £24 billion, costs less to build than two extra runways at Heathrow and can be realised on a similar timescale. 

"Our funding model shows that it could pay for itself within a decade of opening."

• All images courtesy of Foster+Partners.

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