The Government is holding a formal consultation on UK aviation, and will examine the possibility of creating a Thames Hub as one of the options for increasing capacity – which could also have a dramatic impact on the rail network.

Although it is the proposed new airport east of London that has garnered most attention, the Thames Hub plans also include a £20bn four-track, high-speed passenger and freight orbital rail route around London, linking the capital’s radial lines, HS1, HS2, the Thames Estuary ports, and European networks.

The Thames Hub airport is also estimated at £20bn, while the Thames Hub’s backers, Foster and Partners, Halcrow and Volterra, say proposals for barrier crossing and tidal generation would cost £6bn, and £4bn would be spent on utilities and other infrastructure as part of the giant project.

They say the scheme would reassert Britain’s role as a global hub and integrate different strands of transport, as well as providing renewable energy generation.

However, opponents have raised concerns over the environment, including the effect the elements east of London would have on the bird popualtion. Additionally, some argue that there cannot be two aviation hubs in London, and this would lead to a loss of jobs at Heathrow.

Huw Thomas partner at Foster + Partners, said: “We are committed to working with Government and wider industry stakeholders to put in place the transport connections Britain needs to encourage growth, job creation and trade with the rest of the world, particularly the emerging economies.

“We believe that the economic case for the Thames Hub is compelling as Britain is already losing out to expanding European hubs. Our proposal comprehensively addresses the infrastructure needed to maximise the advantages of a new airport. The Thames Hub and proposed new airport project is part of a wider UK-wide initiative to bring together rail, freight logistics, aviation, energy generation and transmission, flood protection and regional development. Recognising the synergies between these different strands, it reaps the benefits of their integration.”

Boris Johnson told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The difficulty would not be the financing of the airport per se... the difficulty obviously would be in the infrastructure, connectivity between the airport and central London, and that's why the consultation is essential.

“We can’t go on expecting Britain to compete with France, Germany and other European countries when we simply can't supply the flights to these growth destinations - China, Latin America.

“We are being badly left behind.”

But Labour’s Ken Livingstone said: “An airport in the Thames threatens a huge increase in noise, congestion and pollution for millions of people in the east and south east of London, especially Bromley, Bexley, Havering and Barking. It also threatens hundreds of thousands of the jobs in west London who rely on Heathrow.”

A Department for Transport spokesman said “no decisions have been taken”, adding: “The Government will consult on a sustainable framework for UK aviation this spring, at which time we will set out our long-term plans for the sector.”

The study will begin in March.

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Author's Bio: 

Roy Rowlands writes for Rail Technology Magazine an independent technical trade journal for the UK rail industry offering a wide view of rail news views and opinions, he also writes for a rail jobs board reporting on the latest trends in rail recruitment