Boris Island & the Foster Hub vs Reality

Articles, LondonUnlocked, New ProjectsEditorComment

Screen Shot 2011-11-04 at 09.42.22.pngAs the Labour Party scraps its plans for a third runway at Heathrow and a dual runway use trial has begun at that site, Lord Foster has unveiled his vision of a Thames Hub Airport.

From the press release:

Britain can no longer trade on an inadequate and aged infrastructure. A fast-growing population and an evolving global economy demand that the quality of the UK’s infrastructure be improved and its capacity increased dramatically. The study describes proposals for a Spine which combines rail, energy, communications and data running the length of the UK. The Spine is fed by a Thames Hub, which brings together a new river barrier and crossing, an international airport, and a shipping and rail complex. Recognising the synergies between rail, freight logistics, aviation, energy and its transmission, flood protection and regional development, it reaps the benefits of their integration.

The Thames Hub will lay the foundations for the future prosperity of Britain. It will put in place the transport connections Britain needs in order to maximise its trade links with the rest of the world. It will create jobs across the UK, balance the economy between North and South, and boost the economies of the Midlands and the North by providing them with direct connections to the cities and markets of Europe.

Inspiring stuff. Also, costly at £50bn.

The FT, examining the scheme, is no less gushing:

It proposes a complete re-imagining of the UK’s transport, energy and communication infrastructure, a vision of the kind of integration in transport and utilities that has not been considered since the great age of canals and then of railways, and probably even surpassing that.

The Mayor has given the proposal - unsurprisingly - his endorsement and praised the vision of Lord Foster. Medway Council - similarly unsurprisingly - has given its objections.

It certainly is an epic project - a four-runway airport handling 150m passengers a year, complete with a new tidal barrier and connecting railway station.

By the Mayor's own figures, London is already losing out due to the lack of airport capacity. It is right that this issue is being debated in public now.

With the Coalition Government considering infrastructure projects anew, the Transport Secretary launching an aviation policy consultation in the spring, and the heat of an election throwing light on the issue, we can only hope that the stars align and a sensible and sustainable policy can be agreed on rather than another decade of sticking plasters.