Designs for futuristic Thames Estuary airport and transport hub airport unveiled

The airport would be able to handle 150 million passengers a year: double the passenger traffic served at Heathrow Airport, which is running at 99 percent capacity.

Controversial new airport and transport hub in Thames Estuary unveiled

What the new Thames Estuary airport could look like if the concept ever gets off the ground. Source: Foster + Partners

Controversial plans to build a four-runway airport and transport hub in the Thames Estuary are developing on paper, as concept designs of the site are unveiled by a leading architect.

Lord Foster – the architect behind major construction projects including Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok airport and Beijing’s Terminal 3 – calls his latest design for a Thames hub an “integrated vision for Britain”.

Jointly funded by Foster + Partners and engineers Halcrow, the proposal to build a £50bn airport on reclaimed marshland on the Isle of Grain in Kent is touted by some as a viable solution to meet Britain’s future transport needs.

Under Foster’s plan, the airport would be able to handle 150 million passengers a year: double the passenger traffic served at Heathrow Airport, which is running at 99 percent capacity.

It would also bring together a new flood barrier crossing the estuary, a freight port and high speed rail linking London with the north of Britain and around Europe.

Lord Foster and the aviation industry believe that London needs to make room to meet future demand for travel if it is to compete globally as a centre of commerce.

Supporters of the idea say the Thames hub would boost trade links with the world and relieve the traffic burden on congested airports in the South-East, where extra runways have been ruled out by the government.

In August, the coalition government warned that London Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports will reach full capacity by 2030.

The Foster plan is also supported by Mayor of London, Boris Johnson, who believes that capacity-constrained Heathrow airport is diverting economic growth to Frankfurt, Paris and Amsterdam Airports, which have multiple runways.

The Thames hub would use tidal power to generate energy and flights would take-off and land over water, reducing noise levels and allowing flights to operate around-the-clock.

But the plan has been met with fierce opposition from Medway Council in Kent, which said Lord Foster’s proposed site was one of the worst places for anyone to build a new airport.

Councillor Rodney Chambers, the leader of the council previously called it “the latest in a long list of pie in the sky schemes that have been put forward for an airport.”

He added: “We have looked at Lord Foster’s plan and he appears to want to place his fantasy Isle of Grain airport on top of the liquefied natural gas plant and a power station. It beggars belief.”

Opposition also comes from local residents and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), which cites environmental concerns and the area’s rich bird life.

Source: Foster + Partners

Tell Us:

Should there be a hub airport in the Thames Estuary? Please leave a comment below.

What others have said

  1. Excellent idea to get ahead of the game I have to say.
    Wish the goverment would build third runway and heathrow and then build this, heathrow could then last until this is built. once that is done heathrow could be redeveloped for point-point travel and serve as an low cost and tourist airport for the south
    Bring on the third runway and do this. Solves the problem and provides jobs

  2. There are 2 illusions:
    One, that a large, albeit advanced piece of architecture, created out of a computer model as a legacy for a British Prime Minister has a place in the natural surroundings of the Estuary; and
    Two, that airport projects bring wealth to the area when clearly, travellers’ wallets stay in pockets from start to finish and any the beneficiaries are travel and other businesses located elsewhere.
    Or maybe all the operators will mnove their head offices to the East side of London, near the terminal – and go one better by moving their homes families closer for a better view and to be nearer the noise and pollution

  3. If you have ever lived in a flat above a certain height then you know that you can hear traffic that is miles away. Are these nutters seriously thinking that just because this airport is in the estuary it isn’t going to blight the lives of everybody who lives on the banks and beyond? It’s a crazy idea that will make residents lives hell.

  4. I fully support this idea, other countries leave us standing with 20th century airports, Hong Kong did it years ago, but we have to constantly put up with Nimbys or bird watchers, birds will always find elsewhere to go along the coast they are not stuck to the Isle of Grain for heavens sake ! lets get this built and bring Britain back to where it should be, visitors laugh at us for our old hat airports.

  5. This “sophisticated doodle” is not supported by the UK government or the aviation industry. It is not a proposal by the UK government or even commissioned by the UK government. It is merely a self-funded, self-promoting study by Foster + Partners. The fanciful imaginings of Lord Foster or as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds so succinctly puts it “… the glossy and lavishly illustrated concept that exists only to waste scarce time and resources countering the benefits with a sober assessment of the costs.” Too dangerous because of bird-strike! Economically, environmentally and ecologically it is a complete non-starter.
    Friends of the North Kent Marshes
    For more information please go to

Leave a Comment

Like what you're reading?
Terminal U

Help spread the word.