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AIRPORT DESIGN Last modified on January 12, 2012

Thames Estuary Airport

Architect, Lord Norman Foster, outlines proposals for a new London airport.


Location: London, England

Important developments: Proposed new airport

Scheduled completion: TBC

Principle companies involved: Foster+Partners, Halcrow and Volterra

Total investment: €58 billion

Although considered fairly ambitious by most corners of the aviation industry, the architect Lord Norman Foster's plans for a €58 billion airport in the Thames Estuary in London has now reached a step closer to becoming a reality.

Located on reclaimed marshland on the Isle of Grain in Kent, the new 24-hour hub, would be designed to handle 150 million passengers a year – double that of Heathrow – and would cost around €58 billion to build.

The proposed gateway would boast four runways, each at 2.5 miles (4km) long, with flights approaching from the northeast over the water.

Meanwhile, Lord Foster unveiled plans to build what would be the UK's largest railway station underneath the airport, capable of handling 300,000 passengers per day.

With the new rail link, the airport would be accessible from central London in 30 minutes.

The scheme also incorporates a new orbital rail route around the capital, as well as high-speed rail links to mainland Europe via the Channel Tunnel, and future high-speed links to the North of England and the Midlands.

Lord Foster's firm, Foster+Partners, joined forces with infrastructure consultants Halcrow to conduct a self-funded €116,000 study on which these latest designs have been based.

The plans also include the construction of a second Thames barrier to offer flood protection and generate carbon-free energy from the tide.

In terms of funding, the architect said that the new airport would not need to depend on public funding, but would be attractive for private investors across the globe.

He said: "Britain can no longer trade on an inadequate and aged infrastructure.

"A fast-growing population and an evolving global economy demand that the quality of the UK's infrastructure be improved and its capacity increased dramatically.

"The Thames Hub will lay the foundations for the future prosperity of Britain.

"It will put in place the transport connections Britain needs in order to maximise its trade links with the rest of the world.

"It will create jobs across the UK, balance the economy between North and South, and boost the economies of the Midlands and the North by providing them with direct connections to the cities and markets
of Europe."
The proposed project also includes a new technical spine providing underground routes for high-voltage power, broadband fibre and water distribution, which would be integrated within the new flood barrier and rail routes.

Lord Foster, whose company designed Hong Kong International Airport –  which was also built on reclaimed land – added: "If we are to establish a modern transport and energy infrastructure in Britain for this century and beyond, we need to recapture the foresight and political courage of our 19th century forebears and draw on our traditions of engineering, design and landscape.

"If we don't, then we are denying future generations to come. We are rolling over and saying we are no longer competitive – and this  is a competitive world. So I do not believe we have a choice."

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