Thursday, November 3, 2011

Interesting development

Lord Foster reveals £50bn Thames Hub project

Architect Lord Foster and consultant Halcrow have produced a proposal for a massive infrastructure project based upon the idea of a new airport in the Thames estuary built upon reclaimed land with attention to infrastructure, energy and housing. On the face of it, this appears to be a potentially promising idea that will help develop the UK economy so if this plan goes ahead, it could be a good thing. What seems likely is that it will also be good news for land owners near the proposed development site.

Posted by quiet guy @ 08:45 AM (1269 views)
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18 thoughts on “Interesting development

  • The Thames estuary area is good hunting ground for large-scale residential development, as so much of the open land (on both sides of the river) is already trashed, much of the existing property is poor and the local population is of a largely urban disposition who are not likely to put up much of a fuss.

    But another airport in London? The city already has four passenger airports, and it is clear that the UK’s air infrastructure is far too London-centric.

    A much better project would be to build a major new international hub airport within the Liverpool-Manchester-Birmingham triangle (with easy access to an up-rated M6) to replace the three airports those cities currently have.

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  • Mrmagooisagovteconomist says:

    If I recall, isnt there a shipwreck full of unexploded munitions not far from the proposed site ? (ww2) This held the idea up before as I recall ?

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  • “The cost of not doing anything will ultimately be much higher,” says Foster, an architect used to moving mountains in the far east. “We’ve stuck our heads up like coconuts in a funfair expecting them to be knocked down. But we need to do something soon, and this plan is national, aiming to redress the imbalance of the economies of north and south.”

    This is a time for vision, bravery and (above all) modernisation. Here it is.

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  • @UT

    Quite. Half the population of England lives in the midlands/north – and that’s before taking into consideration Wales and Scotland. Concentrating all of the UK’s air infrastructure in the southeast is utter madness and symptomatic of successive governments pandering to corpoprate interests of the wealthy in London rather than thinking about the economy as a whole. Building a major hub in the North would remove the need for so much pointless travel to London and provide some welcome competition to the miserable, lazy, indifferent tw*ts that work at Heathrow.

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  • @3 phd

    Comprehensively agree with you. But, nevertheless, I honour Foster’s proposal for the change in thinking and ambition it represents – rather than the detail.

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  • what happened to the extra lane on M6 Scheme and the north to south railway line

    this country is served by two motorways north to south M1 and M6 neither actually go the full length, they should extend both of those and add a 3rd north south motorway, also they should get lorries off the road they are wasteful and slow the infrastructure down there is no reason they cannot put a wagon or fridge container on railways and have hubs every now and then to serve cities and towns or they could use the water we are surrounded by.

    as for airports manchester has gone down the pan so gatwick and heathrow are the only alternatives both are a long drive, expensive to park at and are too busy, how much does all this effect our economy all that extra road traffic heading for airports

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  • @UT,
    But the short-term problem is capacity at Heathrow and other London airports. Heathrow is already at full capacity and a third runway has been ruled out by this government.

    There’s no lack of capacity at Birmingham or Manchester or Liverpool airports, and it’s not too much trouble for people from one city to drive or take the train to another city’s airport. Also I don’t think the three cities form a natural grouping; Birmingham is quite a long way from Liverpool and Manchester, and the countryside around the M6 is sparsely populated. By contrast the land between Liverpool and Manchester is almost continuous development.

    Scotland could do with a single hub airport between Edinburgh and Glasgow, but that’s a matter for the Scottish government.

    Anyway, the big question is who will pay for all this. £50bn is a lot of money, more even than the controversial High Speed 2 railway (£32bn estimate).

    Norman Foster said that the hub “would not need to depend on public funding”, and suggested the project would be of “significant interest” to inward investment, including sovereign wealth funds.

    I’m all in favour of it if it pays for itself!

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  • drewster

    any idea on the turnover ££ of current airports

    Blackpool might be a good area for an airport nice big landing strip all the way along the front get rid of all that crappy property

    Manchester could be improved if the airport had more international connections, better train access

    I once looked at getting the train to gatwick 4 changes / £800 and a good few hours what use is that for a train system, we need better train routes

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  • drewster,

    The lack of air capacity in London is due to people in the rest of the UK having to travel via the capital. Having only one hub airport in the UK is crazy – if we had a second in the north-west, people would not have to change planes in London.

    A hub airport has to be big enough to have a comprehensive timetable of direct flights to the world’s other hubs. Having three airports in the north west makes that impossible to achieve.

    Scotland’s problem (I am reliably informed) is that there really is nowhere flat enough between Edinburgh and Glasgow to build a unifying airport.

    HS2 is one of the most stupid ideas – the existing lines on that route are amongst the best in the existing network, whilst there is a critical lack of east-west connections. For example, if you want to take a train from Cambridge to Coventry, (80 miles by road) you have to go via London (160 miles by rail)

    Again, London-centricity is the problem..

    Similarly, look at the container lorries on the M25, and consider where they came from, and where they’re going to – many are only there because there are inadequate east-west routes – a truck going from Felixstowe to Bristol should not be clogging the M25, and if the road link was parallelled with a rail line, much of the container freight could travel that way.

    A road-rail east west route would be a far better investment.

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  • UT

    we have a lot of wagons coming into our area from eastern europe they use the “transatlantic highway” (if memory serves me right on name) this road is always full of wagons and many a crash has happened causing similar chaos as in Preston the other day, there is no reason why they cannot be on railways or even ships dropping off at each port around the country, they could drop to smaller ships which can travel up rivers and ship canals

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  • mark,
    No idea, sorry. Turnover doesn’t directly translate to profit anyway. Blackpool already has an airport offering mainly holiday flights to Tenerife, Alicante, Malaga, and the like.

    Foster & Co’s airport needs to make a profit after both operating costs and construction costs (and interest). There’s a lesson from the Channel Tunnel – it too was a massive infrastructure project, funded by the private sector, it would boost the economy, etc.; but it never managed to break even because the construction cost went way over budget. I don’t know how Foster expects to build the whole thing for £50bn; Heathrow’s recently-opened Terminal 5 cost £4.3bn alone.

    I’ve only been to Manchester airport a handful of times, but it always struck me as a very good airport. It’s directly connected to the motorway network and the rail network, with direct trains to Liverpool, Blackpool, Preston, Leeds, Sheffield, Crewe, and more. There isn’t a direct connection with Birmingham or London, but I imagine Network Rail have worked out that there isn’t enough demand (or that there isn’t capacity on the network, or that it would slow down other passengers too much, etc.). Gatwick is a pain to get to from anywhere other than south of London, but then it’s almost at capacity anyway. If I lived in the North I’d rather get a flight from Manchester to e.g. Schipol and change, rather than drive or train to Heathwickstedton for a direct flight.

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  • The T5 terminal is terrible the motorway is gridlocked around the entrance to the terminal from mway terrible planning

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  • drewster i use manchester airport a lot used to use gatwick it is only recently manchester has direct flights to where i fly, manchester lacks in direct flights and people prefer to fly direct especially those who dislike flying, a direct flight can be 10 hours an indirect one can often be 16-18 hours on my route the worst was a slight delay in the UK caused a 9 hour wait in LAX turning the 10 hours into nearly 22 hours

    plus direct flights are more economical with fuel

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  • UT @ 8,
    Yes I agree, a single hub allows more connections, network effects, growth, etc. It’s generally a good thing.
    Scotland’s woes would be mitigated if Edinburgh airport was given a railway connection. That would place it 40 minutes from central Glasgow, a perfectly reasonable travel time.

    mark @ 12,
    Yes people dislike changing, especially if they’re only going short-haul or on holiday. Far better to drive 2-3 hours at either end than lose a whole day in an airport.

    Both UT and Mark,
    Manchester is already the hub of the north, with three terminals and regular long-haul flights to the USA and the Middle East. By contrast there are no long-haul flights from Blackpool, Liverpool, Leeds-Bradford*, East Midlands, or Doncaster “Robin Hood” airport. The smaller airports just serve holiday travellers, or travellers going to a mega-hub such as Amsterdam or Paris. There isn’t enough demand for long-haul travel in the North for Manchester to become a mega-hub on the scale of Paris. I don’t know if closing the smaller airports and forcing everyone to drive to Manchester would help, or whether it would just kill jobs.
    (*Leeds-Bradford has one long-haul destination, Islamabad.)

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  • drewster

    manchester does have a few long haul, although a lot of people use the shuttle to london for a change, when Virgin started a service from Man it has been a busy route, as the only other place was from gatwick. There is demand from those up north for long haul just the councils who run manchester are useless.

    could the new airport be susceptible to flooding from the thames?

    Cardiff (not sure if it still is) is an international airport

    there should be at least 3 international airports spaced throughout the UK from north to south

    with trains running from each airport

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  • £50bn? Couldn’t we have paid for this with printed QE money instead of giving it all the banks? I’m not a fan of QE but if you’re going to do it at least splash out on some cool engineering proejcts or am I missing something?

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  • Don’t underestimate the economic benefits of having a northwest hub – foreign companies thinking of building premises in a country are greatly put off if the proposed site is more than two hours drive from the nearest hub airport. Many with existing premises in the London area would re-locate to take advantage of the cheaper property.

    Whether you uprate Manchester or build new is debateable, but there need to more direct flights and less changing at London.

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  • Could the new airport be susceptible to flooding? No; I’ve skimmed through the full report [PDF], they’ve addressed that issue.

    If the airlines wanted more long-haul flights from Manchester airport, I’m sure the councils who own & run it wouldn’t object. Generally they bend over backwards to attract rich long-haul passengers.

    Cardiff’s problems are population and money. The entire of south Wales is just 2m people, mostly locals, and they’re not exactly minted. London & the home counties have a combined population of over 14m well-heeled individuals, a significant number of whom are foreigners or have foreign connections. (London is the seventh-largest French city, with over 300,000 Frenchies living there. That’s about the same as the total population of Cardiff.) London is home to thousands of multinational companies who need all those long-haul flights; Manchester and Cardiff and Glasgow simply are not.

    If the Thames Estuary airport becomes reality, then it strengthens the case for a Severn Barrage airport. With Heathrow closed, there would be new demand for an airport in the west of England or south Wales. The combined population of south Wales and the Bristol area could provide enough people and money to support it.

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