Lord Foster to unveil ambitious airport plans
A section of the Thames
Estuary airport, as designed by Lord Foster. Picture: Foster and
Ambitious plans for a multi-billion
pounds transport hub connecting the UK's main sea ports and
creating a huge new airport in Kent are to be revealed today.
Renowned architect Lord Foster - famed
for designing the Stansted Airport terminal building and London's
'Gherkin' - is unveiling the plans in London.
He will outline the scheme for a
Thames Hub, which brings together a new river barrier and crossing,
an international airport on the Hoo Peninsula, and a shipping and
Read our exclusive interview with Lord
Foster - why my vision isn't pie in the
on why we need more capacity - and regional airports could be
The introduction to the development -
dubbed 'an integrated vision for Britain' - says the project will
"lay the foundations for the future prosperity of Britain.
"It will create jobs across the UK and
boost the economies of the Midlands and the North by providing them
with direct connections to the cities and markets of Europe.
"In order to realise it, Britain needs
to rekindle the foresight and courage of its 19th centure forebears
and our traditions of engineering, design and landscape."
But at the heart of the so-called
Spine project is the controversial Estuary airport on the Isle of
A section of high speed
rail to feed the Thames Hub airport. Picture: Foster and
The report claims this will be energy
self-sufficient, using tidal power generators.
But it would more than
double the capacity of Heathrow, handling up to 150
million passengers each year, 24 hours every day.
If built, it would have four runways,
each 4km long.
An integrated rail station
beneath the passenger terminal will be the UK's
busiest - with 300,000 arrivals and departures every day.
The report adds: "Significantly, it
will greatly improve the lives of the five million people who
currently live under the flight paths in and out of Heathrow."
Around half of the airport platform
will be on reclaimed land extending into the Estuary 7m above sea
It's claimed it would reduce noise and
pollution for millions of people and improve flood protection -
creating thousands of jobs in the process.
The integrated Thames
barrier, part of the Thames Hub plans. Image: Foster and
Other parts of the project
- A four-track, high-speed passenger and freight Orbital rail
route around London, which links London's existing lines, a future
high speed line to the Midlands and the North, the Thames Estuary
ports, High Speed 1 through Kent and Europe.
- A new barrier crossing that harnesses tidal power to generate
- An environmental strategy that "minimises the impact of
development and provides opposrtunities to create significant new
wildlife habitats to more than offset losses elsewhere."
An aerial image of the
Thames Hub airport, designed by Lord Foster. Image: Foster and
The high-speed Orbital Rail route
would also have a huge impact on Kent.
Incorporating two high-speed lines and
two conventional lines, it is said it will "improve transport
connections dramatically for industry and greatly reduce travel
times for passengers."
It approximately traces the existing
line of the M25. For about a third of its length, the network would
pass through tunnels.
Audio: Richard Lavender,
director of Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce
But it would have a huge station at
the Thames Hub, and a further one in Kent, at a town not
The new barrier upstream of the London
Gateway port is said to provide flood protection for the capital to
2100 and beyond.
It's claimed it could also provide
residential development on 'newly-protected land' east of Gravesend
for Thames Hub staff.
But the project has been met with
outrage from local political leaders.
A statement from Medway council dubbed it "one of the worst
places for anyone to build a new airport."
It said: "Not only is it on the wrong side of London, with the
capital in the way for most UK air travellers, but also plans
released by the architect appear to place it on top of Europe’s
largest Liquefied Natural Gas containers, where 20% of Britain’s
gas supplies are delivered by super tanker annually.
"In addition, the site would also be where a major UK power
station is based."
Leader of Medway Council, in Kent, Cllr Rodney Chambers, said:
"The plan to build an airport on the Isle of Grain is, quite
possibly, the daftest in a long list of pie in the sky schemes that
have been put forward for an airport.
"The Isle of Grain is home to one of the world’s largest
Liquefied Natural Gas terminals, with a fifth of the UK’s gas
supply offloaded by container ships and stored there. It is plainly
obvious that aircraft and huge gas containers are a potentially
"The plan to build an airport on the Isle of Grain is, quite possibly, the daftest in a long list of pie in the sky schemes that have been put forward for an airport." – Medway council leader, Cllr Rodney Chambers
"In addition to this,
the sunken American warship the SS Richard Montgomery is submerged
just a few miles from the location and laden with high explosives,
the London Array wind farm is being built nearby and the airport
cuts through an area that is home to hundreds of thousands of
He said Lord Foster's plans beggared belief.
He added: "I can only assume he has not actually left his
offices and travelled from London to Medway to have a look before
He said a huge airport off the Thames Estuary was not only
unaffordable, but unnecessary.
He added: "An airport on or near the Thames Estuary would cause
a devastating impact on the hundreds of thousands of migrating
birds there as well as the local environment."
"Instead, we should look to using up capacity at existing
airports, which is already government policy.
"For instance, Manston, in Kent, already has one of the longest
runways in Europe and is close to the high speed rail link to
London while Birmingham is near the proposed site for a second high
speed train and says it aims to double capacity."
But Mayor of London Boris
Johnson has welcomed the proposals, with reports saying he is
thrilled that the architect has taken on the idea.
In a statement, the Mayor said: "I am grateful to Lord Foster
for spelling out the potential for a new airport, properly rooted
in a broader vision for the Thames estuary, where it would make a
vital contribution to economic growth.
"I believe this is vital not only so London remains in the
premier league of aviation, but also to generate jobs and
opportunities for decades."
Audio: Reporter Nisha
Chopra speaks to Isle of Grain locals
The Mayor has previously said that a new airport in the Thames
Estuary would be "the most powerful single statement we could make
about the ambition of this country".
But he has always said he is open to other suggestions for a
location and sources close to the Mayor today said he is "thrilled"
with the Foster plan.
behind the scheme say the long-term vision, which spans the next 50
years into 2060, "is designed to reinforce the United Kingdom’s
position as the world’s leading commercial, tourist and financial
centres, ensuring that the country remains globally competitive in
the late 21st century and beyond."
The independent report claimed the UK
needed to connect with new markets, and warned it could be
left behind other European countries if it didn't have spare
The announcement comes in the week new
research published by economists FTI Consulting
claimed a "do nothing" approach to runway expansion in the South
East would "stifle UK growth" and could result in lost
benefits of up to £47 billion over the next 30 to 50
Reporter Alan McGuinness will
be at the Foster launch. Follow his tweets at
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