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Leading British architect Lord Norman Foster has formally submitted plans for a new four-runway airport in the Thames estuary to the Airports Commission.
The proposal for a new hub airport on the Isle of Grain last week won support from London mayor Boris Johnson as one of his three preferred options for increasing hub capacity.
Foster & Partners said that the new airport could open by 2029 at an estimated cost of £24 billion.
The airport could operate 24 hours per day allowing it to serve 110 million passengers per year although this could increase to 150 million if necessary, according to the firm. Heathrow currently caters for 80 million passengers per year.
Foster said: “The choice is not about time or money. A new four-runway true hub airport in the Thames Estuary, at £24 billion, costs less to build than two extra runways at Heathrow and can be realised on a similar timescale.
“Our funding model shows that it could pay for itself within a decade of opening.”
“The project also maximises the existing investments made in HS1 by utilising its spare capacity to create fast, efficient access to the airport from London and continental Europe,” he said.
The award-winning architect added that there was a limit to how much Heathrow “can be patched up and enlarged” due to its location.
“Heathrow may be in the worst site for an airport, but it is a perfect location for new homes and clean technology-based research facilities,” argued Foster. “The opportunities it presents as a green field site are boundless – for starters why not Britain’s answer to Silicon Valley?”
Heathrow released its own plans for expansion last week including three different sites for a third runway which would increase capacity at the airport to up to 130 million passengers per year.
Foster also said that a new hub airport would not threaten the existence of the UK’s secondary and regional airports.
The Airports Commission’s deadline for submissions passed on Friday (July 19). The commission, headed by Sir Howard Davies, will now draw up an interim report about the need for extra capacity and also a shortlist of potential options and sites.
This report is due to be published by the end of the year, although final recommendations will not be made until after the next general election in the summer of 2015.