Heathrow replacement to be dreamed up by leading architectural firm

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The Independent Online

Plans to build a huge new airport for London from reclaimed land in the river Thames have been given a significant boost by a leading architectural firm.

Foster + Partners, the company behind London's Gherkin, the Reichstag parliament renovation in Berlin and - perhaps most significantly - the Chek Lap Kok International Airport in Hong Kong, revealed July 31 that it is working on a detailed study for an integrated transport project called the "Thames Hub."

The vision would include an airport capable of handling 150 million passengers a year, new rail links, a tidal energy barrage and a flood protection barrier for London.

Foster + Partners is spending £100,000 (approx. €114,000) on the design, which is being produced in conjunction with Halcrow, the firm behind projects like Abu Dhabi's Yas Island and Seoul's Incheon Airport.

London has suffered an aviation problem for some years now, with an explosion in air travel pushing the aging London Heathrow - already one of the world's busiest international airports - close to a breaking point.

The construction of a new airport in the Thames Estuary as a solution has been mooted in the past, most notably by London's ambitious mayor Boris Johnson, and although critics have described the plans as fantasy, Foster + Partners founder Lord Foster vehemently disagrees.

"These visionary proposals are far from future fantasy," said the firm's famous namesake.

"They are both essential and down to earth. This move would greatly improve the quality of life for Londoners by reducing pollution and improving security. It would also allow London to compete with rapidly expanding airports in Europe and the Middle East."

While Foster points out that Hong Kong's international airport (regularly voted one of the best in the world) was built on an island reclaimed from the sea in just four years, his vision for London is a long-term one, spanning the next 50 years to 2060.

The full vision, and an assessment of the proposals, will be released in full this September.