New Thames Estuary airport proposal unveiled

Gensler design for estuary airport
Image caption The design by architects Gensler includes four floating runways. Image by Vyonyx

New proposals for a floating airport in the Thames Estuary have been unveiled.

Proposals for London Britannia Airport, designed by architects Gensler, include four floating runways tethered to the sea bed.

The architect said the design allowed for future expansion to accommodate six runways when required.

Project director of the latest proposal Ian Mulcahey, said: "This will be a national infrastructure project that can inject new pace and dynamism into our economy.

"The airport can be quickly manufactured in the ship yards and steel works across the UK and can be floated by sea and positioned in the Estuary.

"This isn't a London airport, it is a global airport, designed, manufactured and built in the UK."

But Willie Walsh, chief of International Airlines Group, which incorporates British Airways, told MPs that he could not see how you could make an economic case for a new hub airport.

The "massive" cost, as much as £60bn, would have to be recouped from charges which deterred operators from moving there.

"You would have plenty of capacity but nobody would ever want to use it," he said.

'Global airport'

A spokeswoman for London mayor Boris Johnson said: "This will form, along with other significant submissions, an important part of discussions going forward."

The mayor has already backed the concept for a Thames island airport, for which there have been two other plans unveiled, one dubbed "Boris Island".

The airport would be connected to London by high-speed rail.

The mayor is setting up a new aviation policy unit to be headed by one of his deputies Daniel Moylan, who has been instrumental in pushing the idea of an airport in the Thames Estuary over the last two years.

Image caption Architect Lord Norman Foster earlier unveiled ambitious plans for an airport at the Hoo Peninsula on the Kent coast

The mayor said: "We must remain competitive, and to do that we need a coherent aviation strategy for 21st Century London. Daniel Moylan will help me deliver that."

Last week, the government announced a final decision on UK airport expansion will be taken after the next general election in 2015.

The new transport secretary Patrick Mcloughlin said earlier that the experts appointed to a new independent commission would ensure the best possible long-term solution was found.

He told MPs: "Airport expansion is a very, very difficult subject to address. It's very complicated.

"Even if we had a third runway at Heathrow it would take time to do. It's very controversial."

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