The Queen will today open Heathrow Terminal 5 in a ceremony in which hundreds of those involved in the construction of the new structure will participate. The opening will take place despite yesterday’s Heathrow security alert, in which a man breached the airport’s perimeter and gained access to one of the runways.
Public Use of Terminal 5 Starting March 27th
Heathrow Terminal 5’s public use starts on March 27th. Developed at a cost of £4.3 billion, the new building will ease the overcrowding situation at the airport, but existing flight slots will remain, with no plans to add new ones.
According to BAA – the airport operating group that owns Heathrow – Terminal 5 will “transform” service at the UK’s flagship hub. Those opposed to the development, however, speak of the additional noise, pollution and flights that will result.
Queen Opened First Heathrow Terminal
53 year ago, the Queen was at Heathrow to open its first terminal (the present Terminal 2).
Among those present at today’s ceremony will be Ruth Kelly, Transport Secretary, Martin Broughton, Chairman of British Airways, and Rafael del Pino, Executive Chairman of Grupo Ferrovial – BAA’s Spanish owner.
800 further guests – construction workers and airport staff among them – will also be present.
Terminal 5 Construction Started in September 2002
Heathrow Terminal 5’s construction was started in September 2002. Since that time, 100 million man hours have gone into the project, carried out by 60,000 workers.
During its construction, two rivers have been re-routed and 13 kilometres of tunnels have been dug out. The result, it has been claimed, is the largest free-standing building in the country.
Terminal 5 to Handle 60 Aircraft by 2010
50 new aircraft docks have been created, with ten more due to be added over the next two years.
Today’s official opening focuses on Phase 1 of Terminal 5’s development, incorporating Terminals 5A and 5B. In two years time, Phase 2, which will result in Terminal 5C, should be ready for business.
BAA Chairman Nigel Rudd commented: "From every perspective, this is a landmark project and I am proud to think that Terminal 5 has become a model construction project, setting new, higher standards for an industry around the world."
According to BAA, the checking-in process will become a simpler one, with facilities such as online check-in, hi-tech luggage handling, and rapid luggage drop-off all featuring.
The first passengers to use Terminal 5 are scheduled to do so later this month.
BA the Only Airline to Fly Internationally from Terminal 5
British Airways will have sole use of Terminal 5 as a gateway to international destinations – a right also applicable to a number of domestic flights.
Such a situation has prompted comment from Virgin Atlantic.
"This is a great new building, there's no doubt about it, and it may be a wonderful new piece of infrastructure and architecture, but it doesn't do anything for most of the airlines that operate at Heathrow”, the airline’s director, Paul Charles, stated.
He continued: “This is a gift for BA. They've been gifted terminals before, such as Gatwick North and Terminal 4. Here they are getting Terminal 5, and fundamentally it's a great place to shop but it may not be a great place to travel from."
In the words of campaign group Hacan Clear Skies’ John Stewart, however, today’s opening was a “sad” occasion.
"Hacan is not opposed to good terminal facilities for passengers but Terminal 5 was never about that”, he said.
“It was about creating enough terminal capacity to allow BAA to bring more flights into the airport."
He added: "The Queen will be unveiling another broken promise rather than a sparkling new terminal. The pall of deceit and collusion will hang over the entire proceedings."
Source – Airport International’s London Reporter