Foreign investors have already shown “significant interest” in the ambitious vision for a £50 billion Thames Hub, its creators claimed today.
Architects Foster + Partners and consultant engineer Halcrow revealed details of their £100,000 study into a plan for a new river barrier and crossing, international airport in the Thames Estuary and shipping and rail complex. The study describes proposals for a spine, fed by the hub and linking rail, energy, communications and data running across the UK.
The report says established private-sector funding models – such as the Regulated Asset Base (RAB) approach – can provide a funding mechanism for the project.
And it claims preliminary discussions with potential stakeholders suggest the project is of “significant interest” to inward investment from overseas, including sovereign wealth funds. It describes the London Gateway shipping port project, funded by Dubai-based DP World and being built by Laing O’Rourke, as an “encouraging precedent”.
But the report also warns that major changes are needed to the existing UK delivery and approvals systems to attract investors.
These could include speeding up the approvals processes for major infrastructure initiatives, better co-operation between agencies involved in cross-sector projects and a longer-term strategic planning approach that has continuity between successive governments.
“Such changes will reduce the perceived risk of the project to investors,” it says.
David Kerr, Halcrow board director, said: “Great challenges require bold solutions, which is why I believe our Thames Hub vision is critical to society and to the country’s economic prosperity. If we don’t sustain and invest in infrastructure, then it’s at our peril. If the UK is to remain globally competitive, these proposals need to be seriously considered.”
The plan will cost £50bn and generate £150bn for the UK economy, the report says. This will include £35bn from rail and road transport; £35bn from the airport, including tax revenues; £2bn from environmental management and £75bn from growth in the Thames Hub area.
Leading economist Bridget Rosewell, who argued the economic case for Crossrail and has backed the hub vision, spoke to CN about the plan in September.
Thames Hub components:
A new barrier crossing that extends flood protection to London and the Thames Gateway, harnessing tidal power to generate carbon-free energy
A four-track, high-speed passenger and freight Orbital Rail route around London, which links London’s radial lines, a future high-speed rail line to the Midlands and the North, the Thames Estuary ports, High Speed 1 (Channel Tunnel to London), and European networks
An Estuary Airport, capable of handling 150 million passengers per year, integrated within a logistics matrix that connects by rail the Thames Estuary Ports and the ports of Liverpool, Southampton and Felixstowe. Associated with the Hub is a major renewable energy source in the estuary.
A new utilities and data spine in the Thames Barrier, Orbital Rail line and high-speed networks, stretching across the UK
A comprehensive environmental management strategy that minimises the impact of development.