We've seen futuristic airport ideas for London before, and now here's a proposal to create a floating airport on the surface of London's River Thames Estuary. The proposed "London Britannia Airport" would not be built on reclaimed land added to the center of the river, but rather with buildings and runways tethered to the seabed.
San Fran-based architectural firm Gensler is behind the design of the unique $80 billion proposal. The concourse would sit in the center of the Estuary, and four tethered runways, each five kilometers long, would float around it. Access to the airport would be provided via a new high-speed underground railway that whisks travelers either to London or off to the rest of Europe. Want to take your car? No problem, as the plans allow for three parking terminals nearby on land.
The firm's proposal also includes a revamp for Heathrow. The aging airport would be updated to an eco-village, with its excess air traffic being diverted to the four runways at Britannia Airport. Plans for Heathrow would also include an eco-city, providing homes for 300,000 people.
Other positives include the ability for 24-hour departures — noise abatement restrictions aren't necessary over water. The developers note that by tethering the runways to the seabed, there would be less environmental disruption than building the design on reclaimed land. Power is proposed to be generated by marine turbines situated around the floating airport.
It may be no coincidence the proposal comes on the heels of the Olympics, where Olympic-sized travel problems arose at the already over-capacity Heathrow airport. Plans to simply increase the size of Heathrow is a source of controversy as nearby residents oppose the changes it would make to the urban landscape — not to mention the noise and traffic.
While a floating airport could be the answer, it is debatable whether the expensive plan would be approved. It's not even the first plan for a floating airport to service London, with some ideas reaching back to the 1940s. San Diego also considered similar plans in 2003, but they were rejected due to high cost. Tokyo actually built a test platform in 2000 to try the concept out, but even after successful takeoff and departure trials the "Mega-Float" was dismantled.
Will London have a floating airport in its future? Despite the many positives that come with the plan, it seems much will depend on the sizable funding needed to complete such a project. We'll just have to see if the government there and the City of London have big enough wallets and enough support from the public to get this off the ground.