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Futuristic London airport proposed for island in middle of Thames

By Simon Busch, CNN
November 26, 2013 -- Updated 1341 GMT (2141 HKT)
The proposed airport on an artificial island in the Thames estuary would increase London's stretched passenger capacity while adding little noise pollution, planners say. The proposed airport on an artificial island in the Thames estuary would increase London's stretched passenger capacity while adding little noise pollution, planners say.
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Runways in the river
Space-age design
Natural light
Heathrow terminal?
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Airport would sit on artificial Thames island
  • Estimated $76 billion project is forecast to take seven years
  • Transparent hubs filled with trees would form passenger terminals
  • Heathrow "to close" if project realized

London (CNN) -- Many visitors to London will be used to flying over the Thames before they land.

Within less than 10 years, they could be touching down at an island airport in the middle of the river itself.

A futuristic-looking, six-runway airport on an artificial island has been proposed at a location off the Isle of Sheppey, around 80 kilometers from the center of the city.

The plan from a consortium formed by the mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has been projected to cost £47 billion ($76 billion) and to take seven years.

With Heathrow running at 99% capacity, the capital needs more runways, the consortium, Testrad, says.

The mid-river location is intended to avoid adding to the aviation noise pollution already bedeviling London -- the source of long-running campaigns from residents beneath that approach into Heathrow that passengers so enjoy.

New beginnings at the world's busiest airport

Trees growing in terminal

A visualization of the proposed London Britannia Airport shows an oval-shaped stucture bisected by runways, sitting in the Thames where the river widens to form an estuary.

Interlinked, translucent hemispherical pods cover the concourse and other passenger areas -- the light they admit allowing trees and other vegetation to grow within.

Heathrow Airport, currently the busiest in Europe by passenger traffic and the third busiest in the world, would close if Britannia Airport went ahead, Gensler, its designers, said.

Passenger numbers to all London's airports are expected to more than double by 2031, to 300 million from 127 million a year in 2010, according to the Greater London Authority.

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