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London Heathrow Terminal 5

Terminal 5

The opening of Terminal 5 (T5) in March 2008 is one of the most eagerly anticipated events in UK aviation. This world-class facility will provide the UK with a national gateway of which it can be proud. Its opening enables BAA to begin a radical overhaul of Heathrow’s existing facilities with a planned £6.2bn investment programme that will see Terminals 1 and 2 replaced by a modern, energy efficient building called Heathrow East, and the extensive refurbishment of Terminals 3 and 4.

T5 interchange

Located between Heathrow’s two runways T5 is a vast development set over 260 hectares. Its two steel and glass buildings – the main terminal and its smaller satellite – conceal almost as much infrastructure below ground as above; with a 13.5km tunnel network, a six platform rail station and one of the largest airport baggage handling systems in the world. In addition, a new air traffic control tower, 3800 space multi story car park, and over a hundred hectares of airfield and road complete this mammoth £4.3bn project. A second satellite will open in 2010 and all three terminal buildings will be connected via an underground Track Transit System which will ferry passengers back and forth in a series of driverless trains.

« on time and on budget, the construction of Terminal 5 is already being hailed as a success »

On time and on budget, the construction of Terminal 5 is already being hailed as a success. Central to this success has been a bespoke contractual arrangement called the T5 Agreement. Implemented at the outset, the agreement redefined risk management and created a new culture based on full integration and collaborative working. BAA as client and co-principle contractor held the entire risk for the project. In return, suppliers made clear risks from the outset so that they could be managed with greater effectiveness.

Removing this accountability from the supply chain enabled integrated project teams to work together in an environment where everyone’s focus was on delivering project milestones and finding solutions to problems, so avoiding the more usual and costly scenario of confrontation, litigation and blame in the event of something going wrong. While BAA retained the risk, it in turn required from its partners integrated working and best practice as a minimum standard. Suppliers also benefited from ring-fenced profit and an incentive scheme that rewarded both early problem solving and exceptional performance.

Another factor cited as contributing to Terminal 5’s success was the extensive use of off-site prefabrication and manufacture. Large pieces of terminal infrastructure have been constructed away from Heathrow in factories throughout the UK. Work across T5 could then be undertaken concurrently therefore enabling a highly efficient build, while constructing in a factory environment is much safer and invariably produces a higher quality of finished product.

In September 2007, Terminal 5 began the final phase in its development; a six-month programme of operational readiness trials. Working from offices inside Terminal 5, a dedicated team called T5live plan the numerous trials that will test and prove every element of T5, from check-in and security through to baggage reclaim and wayfinding.

A major focus of their work is concentrated on the integration of both systems and processes within T5 and also with the rest of Heathrow Airport. The team is also responsible for recruitment, training and familiarisation of staff, and, in close partnership with British Airways, in planning their eventual move from Terminals 1 and 4 into T5, where they will be the sole airline occupant.

Since September the T5live team has been running passenger trials with members of the public who volunteer via the BAA website. Small-scale trials testing elements of the terminal intensively take place on weekdays, and once every month until March advanced trials see up to 2000 volunteers journey through the terminal, taking on the role of departing, transferring and then arriving passengers.

Artist's impression of checkin

Even before the operational readiness period began, many of T5’s systems had already undergone hours of commissioning and rigorous testing. Every software and electronic based system has been tested off-site at a nearby purpose built facility, before being installed in T5, and large infrastructure systems including the £250M baggage handling system will have seen over a years worth of testing. Below ground the first test trains for both the Heathrow Express and London Underground Piccadilly Line have successfully travelled along the new tunnels into the station located underneath the main terminal building.

Terminal 5 gives BAA the opportunity to redefine the passenger experience. It is designed to combine perfectly aesthetics with the functionality of a modern airport terminal. Ensuring every passenger has a positive experience as they journey through the building was key to T5’s design alongside its environmental impact, maintainability and architectural merit. The design called for a light, elegant and airy interior with generosity of space as well as a facility that was easy to use, efficient processes with excellent wayfinding.

Unquestionably Terminal 5 is a world class terminal facility that will help address the current problems associated with congested airport buildings, but it will do nothing to address lack of runway capacity suffered at Heathrow and in the south-east.

« the further development of Heathrow is vital »

Looking forward, the further development of Heathrow is vital if the airport is to maintain its position as Europe’s premier hub airport with an extensive international route network including the UK’s only direct air links to emerging world cities such as Shanghai, Beijing and Mumbai. It is this level of connectivity which has led 90 per cent of businesses in London and the surrounding counties to describe the airport as ‘very important’ or ‘vital’ to their business.

Over the next five years Heathrow Airport is set to undergo a transformation that will mean the majority of passengers will be using new terminals and facilities that aren’t yet open or built. Beyond this, if Heathrow is to remain competitive, continue to lead its foreign competition and crucially to sustain its vital contribution to the UK’s economy then support for a third runway needs to be garnered.

More information can be found on the British Airways site at:

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