04 December 2007
Move Heathrow to the Thames Estuary!
Brian Micklethwait

From time to time I buy The Week, and via the latest edition I came across a piece by Kit Malthouse, saying that Heathrow should be moved.  This makes a lot of sense to me.  This was published ten days ago, but far better to link to this late rather than never.

You need two vital ingredients for a successful international airport: the right wind and loads of space. Heathrow has neither. The prevailing wind in London is westerly. Aircraft have to land into wind; so all those massive beasts (and they are getting bigger every year) have to turn in right over Central London. The noise they cause means only a limited number of flights can land before 6am or after 11.30pm. But as the residents of Wandsworth or Ealing will tell you, it only takes one plane coming over at 4am to wake you up and ruin your day.

Heathrow is also trapped. Hemmed in by the M4, M25 and the A30, surrounded by thousands of residents, our premier airport has nowhere to go and can only cram more and more into what little space is available.

Add to this some truly idiotic planning decisions from the 1950s (Who decided to put the terminals in the middle of the airfield, so the main access had to be through a tiny tunnel?) and you have what is commonly regarded as one of Britain’s greatest planning disasters.

Adding Terminal 5 and also a third runway and a sixth terminal, as the Government wants in its proposals published yesterday, will only make the airport even more of a mess and nuisance. So let’s move it.

The Thames Estuary, he reckons, is where London’s main airport should be.

The Thames estuary is only four metres deep in parts and it would be relatively simple and cheap to construct an artificial island with a beautiful modern airport on it. All the planes would come in to land over the North Sea, which would mean a 24-hour operation, with no disturbance while expanding capacity, at a stroke. In fact, the airport could easily accommodate all the flights from Gatwick as well, meaning we could probably close it too.

A bullet train on stilts or in a tunnel could link the airport to Central London in 20 minutes or so, and a branch line from the new high-speed Eurostar link nearby could connect the airport with the Continent.

Malthouse reckons that the receipts from selling Heathrow off to housing developers might even cover the immense cost of all this.


  1. Another way to unload London’s infrastructure is to move the British capital to Berwick-on-Tweed.  The cost would be easily covered by selling government property in London.

    Posted by dearieme on  04 December 2007 at 07:04 pm

  2. I think that constructing another airport, with another tower control, parking lot, and all the rest is completely nonsense.
    We should instead focus our attention to existing airports that are also conveniently located to serve west (LHR), east and north STN and south LGW.
    Firstly we should reduce the number of flight by banning short journey such as LHR or LGW to Paris. With the enhanced train service it makes no sense at all to have tens of daily flights London to Paris (or Brussels)
    Secondly we should integrate the existing airports into a London hub with a super fast train connection between the airports and to town centre.

    Posted by andy on  28 December 2007 at 12:37 am

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