The Queen will officially open a £4.3 billion new terminal at the UK’s biggest airport today, but customers were warned to expect a ‘bedding down period’ with the new facility.
The official opening of Terminal 5 (T5) at Heathrow comes more than 15 years after airport operator BAA first submitted a planning application.
To be occupied by British Airways, T5 will become operational on March 27 and will be able to handle 30 million passengers a year.
Systems need tuning
But while praising the magnificence of the new building, BAA said that the systems would need a few weeks of tuning once the terminal opened while BA added that there would be ‘a bedding down period’.
It is thought that those opposing airport expansion could protest on the March 27 opening day. Heathrow Airport managing director Mark Bullock said today that there were contingency plans to deal with any protest and that if people turned up ‘we will be ready for them’.
The Queen’s visit to Heathrow today comes more than 50 years after she opened the airport’s first passenger terminal in 1955.
Accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Queen will be greeted by hundreds of airport and construction workers at T5 which lies to the west of the Heathrow complex.
Both BAA and BA believe the new terminal will provide a fine experience and a quicker passage through check-in and security for travellers at an airport which has become associated with long delays and lost bags.
The baggage system in place at T5 is designed to deal with 12,000 bags an hour, with luggage travelling round on more than 10 miles of conveyor belts controlled by 140 computers.
BAA’s strategy director Mike Forster said: ‘We have a world-class baggage system that is going to work perfectly on day one.’
BA director of customer services David Noyes said T5 was ‘a fantastic facility’ while Mr Bullock said the building was a remarkable achievement.
But asked about rumours that much still needed to be done and tested, BAA’s capital projects director Andrew Wolstenholme said: ‘It won’t be fully bedded down until a few weeks have passed.’
He added that there were ‘still things to do’ and that some of the lifts would not be operational at the start.
Mr Noyes also said there would be ‘a bedding down period’ but that he was confident that the building was ‘operationally ready’.
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