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The Queen opens Heathrow Terminal 5

terminal Five
Terminal Five
[14th March 2008]

The Queen is today officially opening Heathrow Terminal 5, the flagship new terminal for Heathrow airport which will be home to airline British Airways.

T5 will open for business on 27 March and welcome the first of up to 30 million passengers a year. The Queen opened the first passenger terminal at Heathrow airport - the Europa Building, now called Terminal 2 - more than half a century ago in 1955.

Hundreds of airport and construction workers greeted The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh against a backdrop of giant screens showing images celebrating the construction of Terminal 5. The Royal Party were met by the chairman of airport operator BAA, Sir Nigel Rudd, with Transport Secretary Ruth Kelly also in attendance..

"Terminal 5 marks the start of a new beginning for Heathrow, for BAA and for our millions of passengers. It is, by any standard, a triumph of ambition, commitment and collaboration. It will breathe new life into Heathrow, allowing us to continue our transformation of the rest of the airport, and will put Heathrow and BAA back where they belong - at the leading edge of global travel," said Rudd.

British Airways will have sole use of the new T5, and chief executive Willie Walsh commented: "With the opening of Terminal 5, British Airways and BAA have an opportunity to make air travel, both into and out of the UK, once again a calmer and much more enjoyable experience. We intend to take full advantage of that opportunity and can't wait to open the doors to our customers."

BAA and BA hope that Terminal 5 will transform the passenger experience at Heathrow airport, eliminating long queues at security and offering spacious, comfortable airport lounges where passengers can unwind before their flight.

There are 20 security lanes at T5 and BAA has set a target that queues at security should be 5 minutes or less for 95% of the time. One of the more controversial security measures at the new Terminal 5 is biometric checking of domestic passengers. Prior to going through security they will be asked to provide four fingerprints. This data will be re-checked prior to boarding and then destroyed after 24 hours.

terminal Five
Terminal Five Departures

BA will be encouraging online check in at T5 and to support this there will be 90 fast bag drops at the new terminal, plus 96 self service check in kiosks as well as 54 manned check in desks. The airline hopes that long queues at check in will be a thing of the past. "You can expect no more than one person in front of you at check in," claims British Airways director of customer services, David Noyes. "T5 is our chance to put convenience and pleasure back into flying," he adds.

Once through security passengers will have a dazzling choice of shops and food and drink outlets available to them. Tiffany & Co will have its first airport boutique in Europe at T5, while celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay opens his first airport restaurant, Plane Food. There are also six luxury airport lounges at Terminal 5 designed to give the look and feel of a modern boutique hotel.

Terminal 5 will have the largest single terminal baggage handling system to go operational in Europe. Bags will be scanned and given a bar code so they can be tracked on their journey. And time critical bags will be delivered directly to the aircraft via a separate fast track system.

A futuristic Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) system using 18 battery powered driverless vehicles will link the Business car park at T5 to the new short-stay multi-storey car park at the terminal which will have spaces for 3800 cars. The vehicles are able to carry four passengers and their luggage and will travel along a 3.8km guideway at speeds of up to 25mph. If the PRT system at Terminal 5 helps combat congestion on airport roads it could be extended across Heathrow.

As well as the new airport car parks, Terminal 5 will also have a new airport hotel. The 605 room Sofitel London Heathrow Hotel near the terminal will open in June, adding more choice for passengers who want to relax at an airport hotel before or after their flight.

Terminal 5 will be very well connected to transport links to the airport. The Piccadilly Line of the London Underground and Heathrow Express have been extended to T5. A new 6 platform railway station has been built underneath the main terminal building. And for passengers travelling by car to the airport, a new spur road links T5 to the M25.

Airport arrivals and departures
T5 baggage reclaim hall

Designed by legendary British architect Sir Richard Rogers and his company Rogers, Stirk, Harbour + Partners, Terminal 5 is the UK's largest free-standing building. Ironically the terminal has been built on the site of a former sludge works, situated between the two runways at Heathrow and adjacent to the M25.

"We had an ambitious vision for terminal 5 and set out to create a benchmark for 20th Century design that would also meet the requirements of the modern airline traveller," comments BAA strategy director, Mike Forster. Architect Mike Davis adds: "The design process was long and involved but never dull. It was a team effort that spanned 19 years". After Rogers and his team won the design competition for T5 in 1989, planning permission was finally granted in 2001 and construction began in 2002.

"The capacity of T5 is 30 million passengers a year - to put that in perspective the terminal is the same size as Gatwick. It was a tremendous challenge to deliver this complex programme on time and on budget. To do this we took on a very different approach with our suppliers, known as the T5 Agreement," explains BAA director of capital projects, Andrew Wolstenholme. The T5 Agreement set strict standards with suppliers and is a landmark in the construction industry.

Prior to going live, BAA has carried out exhaustive tests to ensure that operations run smoothly at Terminal 5. "Operational readiness involved the understanding of how T5 integrated with the rest of LHR. Proving trials for aircraft movements involved 2,000 volunteers and the total number of volunteers involved in the preparation for opening has been 90,000," says BAA MD, Mark Bullock.

Heathrow Terminal 5 will be put to the test for real for the first time when it opens to passengers on 27 March. Phase 2 of Terminal 5 will be completed by 2010 when another 10 aircraft stands will be added bringing the total to 60. We hope the launch will go smoothly and that Heathrow Terminal 5 will truly be an airport that the UK can be proud of.

Written by: Nick Purdom