proposal rejected for thames estuary hub by foster + partners
image courtesy of foster + partners




the UK airports commission has announced that the inner thames estuary hub proposal, designed by foster + partners, has not been shortlisted for further consideration. strongly backed by london mayor boris johnson, the project was conceived as a potential solution to the region’s need for expanded air travel capacity, by adding four new runways. after the scheme’s rejection, alternative plans still open for consideration include extensions to london’s existing heathrow and gatwick airports.


the transit proposal provides increased connectivity to mainland europe, via rail and aviation travel, and took thorough care in regards to environmental sensitivity. see additional information and images on the envisioned transit hub here. the airports commission’s resolution follows a response design package by the architect, working in collaboration with systems engineers halcrow and volterra, which seeks to clarify the project’s relevance and feasibility.


in explaining the airports commission’s decision, chair sir howard davies states:


‘while we recognize the need for a hub airport, we believe this should be a part of an effective system of competing airports to meet the needs of a widely spread and diverse market like london’s.


there are serious doubts about the delivery and operation of a very large hub airport in the estuary. the economic disruption would be huge and there are environmental hurdles which it may prove impossible, or very time-consuming to surmount. even the least ambitious version of the scheme would cost £70 to £90 billion with much greater public expenditure involved than in other options – probably some £30 to £60 billion in total.


there will be those who argue that the commission lacks ambition and imagination. we are ambitious for the right solution. the need for additional capacity is urgent. we need to focus on solutions which are deliverable, affordable, and set the right balance for the future of aviation in the UK.’


see here for a detailed report released by the airports commission on the inner thames estuary hub resolution.


as reported by the guardian, london mayor boris johnson has challenged the airports commission by claiming: ‘in one myopic stroke the airports commission has set the debate back by half a century and consigned their work to the long list of vertically filed reports on aviation expansion that are gathering dust on a shelf in whitehall.’


johnson has clarified his opposition to extension projects of either gatwick and heathrow, for economic, political, and urban consequences. he continues:


‘gatwick is not a long-term solution and howard davies must explain to the people of london how he can possibly envisage that an expansion of heathrow, which would create unbelievable levels of noise, blight, and pollution, is a better idea than a new airport to the east of london that he himself admits is visionary.’


in response to the airport commission’s decision, architect norman foster released the following statement:


‘I predict that londoners will be scathing in their condemnation of today’s announcement, when confronted with the inevitability of the blighting influence of heathrow –  the risks, noise and environmental impact of overflying london – and its inability to cope with predicted growth. they will ask why there was not even the courage to further explore – to study – to research – a strategic long term alternative to the instant gratification of a sadly predictable compromise. adding a third runway at heathrow is merely a short term fix – it will inevitably lead to a fourth runway in order to maintain international hub status.


by contrast, a new national airport in the thames estuary is a true design for the future, especially when linked into existing and new high speed train networks. it can be achieved more quickly and, based on independent analysis, there would not be a substantial cost difference between a fresh start at thames hub compared to a stop-gap solution at heathrow.


elsewhere in the world, relocating an airport that no longer serves its purpose is considered normal practice. france did it twice in a matter of decades. in hong kong we created a man-made island the size of heathrow and built what was then the largest airport in the world – all in the space of six years. the pattern of the most competitive emerging economies is to replace the old and obsolescent and go boldly forward with the new, an opportunity today’s decision denies this country. the outcome of this process calls into question the validity of the commission.’