Today, Lord Foster, Visiting Professor in the School of Geography and the Environment, delivers his annual lecture as part of the Humanitas programme at the University of Oxford. The lecture – entitled Infrastructure, Heritage and Lessons – considers the proposed Thames Hub, an integrated infrastructure plan for Britain, inspired by the lessons of nineteenth-century pioneers.
Since the launch earlier this month, further studies have been undertaken into the proposed Thames Hub, which includes: a £20bn high-speed Orbital Rail line around London; a new £6bn Thames Barrier and crossing; and a £20bn international Estuary Airport, with annual capacity for 150 million passengers. All of this takes place in the context of a comprehensive environmental management strategy that minimises the impact of development and provides opportunities to create significant new wildlife habitats to more than offset losses elsewhere. The total estimated cost of the project is £50bn.
The proposal includes a detailed study of wildlife habitats in the Thames Estuary, investigating the potential for a new nature reserve; analysis of the wreck of the SS Richard Montgomery, a World War II munitions ship, which lies close to the proposed airport site; a survey of the settlements and listed buildings on the Isle of Grain; further detail on rail alignment and integration of utilities and gas insulated cables; and possible locations of intermodal stations on the Orbital Rail link. Studies have also been carried out into the possible increased risk of bird strikes in the Thames Estuary – findings indicate that this problem is not unique to the site and many precedents exist for dealing with this.
Over the last few weeks, the team has also met a large number of public and private-sector stakeholders, across a range of infrastructure sectors, and has received strong support for the Thames Hub proposals. Initial discussions with investors have shown that there is interest in supporting the project through its planning, design, construction, and operation and maintenance phases. With an appropriate political and planning framework, this is a project that can be delivered.