Plans Unveiled for World's Largest Airport in England

Proposed airport in the Thames Estuary
Wired: Architect Lord Norman Foster has proposed an ambitious £50 billion ($80 billion) transport hub on the Thames Estuary, which would host the world's biggest airport and create a series of high-speed rail links that run up the spine of central England.

The imaginative design sees a massive airport with four 25-mile-long runways, attached to the river estuary on reclaimed marshland on the Isle of Grain, in Kent. It would be capable of handling 150 million passengers a year -- ultra-popular Heathrow manages about 60 million.

Deep underground is a four-track railway line for passengers and cargo, which links to an orbital rail route around London, stations in the North and even tracks into mainland Europe. Those trains are flanked by utilities and internet cables to service the UK.

There's also a new barrier crossing that not only extends the flood protection to London and the Thames Gateway, but tidal-turbines along the barrier generate carbon-free energy.

Foster, who designed the new Wembley Stadium and the "Gherkin" skyscraper, said, "if we are to establish a modern transport and energy infrastructure in Britain for this century and beyond, we need to recapture the foresight and political courage of our 19th century forebears and draw on our traditions of engineering, design and landscape.

"If we don't then we are denying future generations to come. We are rolling over and saying we are no longer competitive -- and this is a competitive world. So I do not believe we have a choice."

However, not everyone is overjoyed. Medway Council in Kent said the Hoo Peninsula on the Isle of Grain was one of the worst places for anyone to build a new airport.

Councillor Rodney Chambers, said: "This plan is, quite possibly, the daftest in a long list of pie-in-the-sky schemes that have been put forward for an airport. The Isle of Grain is home to one of the world's largest Liquefied Natural Gas terminals, with a fifth of the UK's gas supply offloaded by container ships and stored there. It is plainly obvious that aircraft and huge gas containers are a potentially lethal mix."

"In addition to this, the sunken American warship the SS Richard Montgomery is submerged just a few miles from the location and laden with high explosives, the London Array wind farm is being built nearby and the airport cuts through an area that is home to hundreds of thousands of migrating birds."

"I can only assume he has not actually left his offices and traveled from London to Medway to have a look before releasing this."

London mayor Boris Johnson previously had a similar idea, and proposed building a floating airport island in the same estuary. Johnson is all for Foster's plan, with a spokesperson for the mayor saying, "The mayor is delighted that a distinguished figure like Lord Foster agrees that the answer to Britain's aviation needs lie in the estuary. This idea is taking off and rightly so because Britain's economic future relies on strengthening our ability to connect with the great growth economies of the globe."


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