T5 open to passengers

No_more_waiting_ba Heathrow’s new Terminal 5 has opened to the public, with British Airways starting operations from the building. The first departure was at 0620 GMT March 27, when a service left for Paris. Sadly, it left without any of the passengers’ bags due to a handling problem which looks likely to affect operations for days if not weeks as the new terminal beds down.

Problems in baggage handling, said to be due to conveyors blocking with bags, caused major disruption on the opening day, and the cancellation of over 60 flights. Other teething troubles included security, which was alleged to be taking much longer than the promised ten minutes, complaints about confusing road signs, problems for some people attempting to pay at a car park, and a previously working escalator that had broken down. However many passengers also praised the new terminal.

Apart from the baggage handling, for such a large opening, the troubles seem minor. Both BA and BAA have warned passengers it will take time for such a huge project to "bed down".

Triumph of Construction

The process of building the giant terminal – and its smaller satellite which on its own is bigger than Terminal 4 – is singled out for praise by industry magazine Construction News which says the management of the 16 major interlocking projects that made up the megaproject that is T5 was a major success. Delivering a functioning building (if not functioning baggage handling!) on time, under budget and in some style is a feat to be proud of.

Indeed, T5’s construction was a major test of the supply chain management principles espoused by former BAA executive John Egan in his report ‘Rethinking Construction’ ten years ago – with risk management enshrined in a bespoke contract form used universally on the project. Certainly the record through the construction process on rework, waste and health and safety is exemplary, and a contrast to other major projects of this decade – like Wembley Stadium – and likely to provide many pointers for the 2012 Olympic projects, and other future big construction.

More flights, more terminals?

BAA says the opening of Terminal 5 will not see any more flights operating to and from Heathrow, environmental groups are not convinced.

John Stewart, from anti-expansion group Hacan ClearSkies, told the BBC: "The real reason it was built was to provide the terminal capacity to allow more flights on the existing runways, which will mean more noise, more pollution and more stress for those living under the flight paths."

Willie Walsh, writing in the airline’s staff newspaper, however said: "There continue to be problems at Heathrow with a lack of runway capacity and T5 will do nothing to sort this out".

Once BA has completed its terminal changes, BAA plans to start moving other carriers to Terminals 1, 3 and 4, where they will be grouped according to airline alliances. Terminal 2 will then be demolished, to pave the way for a new facility – Heathrow East – which BAA wants ready for the 2012 Olympics.

From the BBC

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