Last Updated 27 Jan 2021

Heathrow: Terminal 5

Category Airport
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The plans for this project began as far back as 1982, where there was an on-going debate as to whether the aviation industry in the United Kingdom should expand through Heathrow Airport or Stansted Airport. The objective of the operation was to add a fifth passenger terminal to Heathrow to handle the tourism coming into London, also with the intentions of increasing the capacity of Heathrow Airport from 65 million people per year to 97 million people per year. Plans for the building of Terminal 5 began in 1988.

The project was given a budget of under ? 4. 5 billion. The main stakeholders in this operation were Willy Walsh (CEO of British Airways at the time), and Tony Douglas (CEO of BAA at the time). Terminal Five was going to be made using the latest technology in order to make the airport experience much easier for the public, and also to keep up with the leading airports in the world. The public were originally very strongly opposing the plans, with local people and local councils claiming it would cause more noise pollution, air pollution and traffic congestion in their area.

The first design milestone for this project came in the late 1980's when architect Richard Rogers of 'Richard Rogers Partnership Architecture Firm' was appointed with the task of designing the structure. British Airports Authority (BAA) officially announced a proposal to expand through building Terminal 5 at Heathrow in May of 1992. Terminal 5 had to fulfil a number of needs as an airport terminal, such as retail facilities, rail terminal, multi-storey car park, production lines etc.

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Project Plan

The development of Terminal 5 was an extremely time-consuming journey which started in the late 1980's when Richard Rogers Partnership was appointed with the task of designing the terminal. Planning applications were submitted in 1993, and a public enquiry was held from 1995 to 1999 to examine the every need of this new terminal, and every aspect of the design of the structure that was about to be introduced. Eight years after the initial planning application, the transport minister had made the decision to grant planning permission on behalf of the British government.

It was the longest public enquiry in UK history with legal costs reaching 80m pounds and contained over 700 building conditions. At the time Terminal 5 was the largest construction project in Europe and cost a staggering 4. 2bn. Phase one of the project included many systems of systems; it contains two main terminal satellites, car parks with over 4,000 spaces, major tunnelling and excavations, underground bagging system, road rail extensions, air traffic control tower, a hotel containing 600 bedrooms, 60 aircraft stands, as well as transit systems.

The British Airports Authority felt they had to upgrade their airport to keep in competition with other main hub airports. Construction of the project went underway in the Summer of 2002 and was originally a five year plan. Five key stages were identified in the construction of Heathrow Terminal 5:

  1. Site Preparation & Enabling Works
  2. Ground Works
  3.  Major Structures
  4. Fit Out Site Preparation
  5. Enabling Works

A major archaeology excavation took place on the Terminal 5 site, where there were over 80,000 artefacts found during the excavation.

Also operations such as levelling the site, laying foundations, extensive tunnelling to cater for the large underground baggage and railway system that was to be put in place for the airport. Groundworks March 2005 also saw the completion of developed road infrastructure (internal airside roads). A new spur road off the M25 was also completed and opened in April 2008 in order to improve access to the terminal. Underground railroad tunnel connections between Heathrow express and Terminal 5 were finally completed in September 2004 after four and half months of tunnelling.

Terminal 5 has six platforms, two of which are used for London Underground Piccadilly extension, two for the Heathrow express and the remaining two for additional extensions. The railway service was completed in March 2008. Major Structures Two satellite terminals were built to cater for 30 million extra passengers per year. Phase 1 of building these structures would account for 27 million passengers then a further 3 million on completion of Phase 2. Phase 2 was the further construction of a second satellite terminal neighbouring to the original Terminal 5 structure and was completed in June 2005.

March 2005 was a pivotal point in the construction of Terminal 5; the air traffic control tower was fully erected and stood 87 meters tall, which makes it one of the largest in Europe. Fit Out Key elements of the fit out comprise of specific electronic systems. These electronic systems involve new check-in technology. It uses a face recognition system on arrival to reduce waiting time for boarding passengers. The service also includes the Rapid Transit System, which is a personal people mover carriage which links people from the car park to the main Terminal 5 building.

It was completed in April 2011 and then opened to the public in September 2011. The baggage handling system is the largest of its kind in Europe and it has two main integrated systems; fast track and main baggage sorter. The systems were designed to handle more than 70,000 bags per day. Working Breakdown Structure Risks Capital Issues Many factors had to be taken into account upon undertaking the Heathrow Terminal 5 build. This at the time was Europe’s largest construction project in its history and was also the British Airport Authority (BAA) largest and most expensive project undertaken.

This project would tie up much of BAA’s working capital (4. 3 Billion). Taking up all off this was a huge risk for BAA as any major cost overruns would severely break the budget and would lead to huge exposure to BAA as a company itself rendering them out of money and needing extra finance. To overcome this BAA set out a new no blame culture Construction Risks The construction site of the Terminal posed huge risks to the project as it was determined the site would be built on an area of wetlands west of the original airport.

The site was previously occupied by a sewage works and these wetlands had two main rivers running through them which would need to be relocated in order for any construction to go ahead. The two rivers – The Longford River and The Duke of Northumberland River. BAA came up with a twin Rivers Diversion Scheme to re route these rivers operating under strict time constraints established from the inquiry. The scheme achieved a Civil Engineering Environmental Quality (CEEQUAL) award for maintaining high environmental standards and quality during design and construction.

Constraint Issues Being the largest free standing building ever to be built in Europe coupled with the fact that Heathrow had to be fully operational throughout the construction project special cranes had to be custom built in order to erect the building while not interfering with air space and possibly causing havoc amongst the airport. Many constraints were also put on the builders, workers and architects of the project from the lengthy inquiry – one of the main issues being that only one access road would be allowed to service the site.

This forced BAA to create and off site set up area where the pre fabrication was done for the project and then brought on site when needed. Costs We as a group believe that this project was extremely good value for money although it came in over budget by over €200. T2 received 3 accolades for its structure and design and scored exceptional high in areas of efficiency, cost, aesthetics and innovation. It has won these awards for its smooth operation’s during construction.

Terminal 2 was over budget because it was seen as an investment for decades to come rather than a quick solution for an outdated airport. Terminal 2 was a key infrastructural venture, tourism decimated since the onset of the recession and that has had a significant impact on footfall at Dublin Airport. With its new technologies it lays the path for future prosperity and growth within the Irish tourism sector. We believe that the planning of the budget was the problem here and not enough consideration was taken into account about unforeseen circumstances – leading to the budget being hugely unrealistic.

The Enabling works along with site logistics & phasing was originally budgeted at €5,925,000 but final cost turned out to be €9,135,000. The works & logistics involved diversion of utility services and the unplanned extensive reconstruction of Corbalis House a post medieval house dating back to the pre 1700’s. REFERENCE Upon reaching our judgement that T2 was a construction success we referred back to and compared Heathrow’s T5. DAA managed to build and International Terminal with a final cost of €609 whereas it took BAA €4. Billion to service only double the amount of yearly passengers as Dublins T2. Below are some other stark comparisons where we believe T2 was a massive success as they managed to spend 7 x times less than BAA’s T5.


  •  http://centrim. mis. brighton. ac. uk/research/projects/t5
  •  http://www. economist. com/node/4300209
  • http://www. hacan. org. uk/resources/briefings/hacan. briefing. heathrow_terminal_5. pdf
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