19 Jul 2013
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 cost of £24bn, and has the flexibility to grow to 150 million passengers per year and beyond. 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. Unlike Heathrow, the airport can operate 24-hours a day. 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. 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.
Under current legislation, the planning process would be identical to a third runway at Heathrow. The Thames Hub Airport can open within 16 years. A third Heathrow runway would take the same time to build and would be full within a decade of opening, necessitating a fourth runway. 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. Phased development can take into account evolving passenger demand and the transition carefully managed, with Heathrow transformed into a prosperous new London borough and a sustainable commercial centre to rival Canary Wharf.