Plan unveiled to demolish Heathrow terminal

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Work on the new terminal could start by 2009 and the terminal would be capable of handling 30 million passengers a year.

Designed to complement the new £4.2 billion Terminal 5 at Heathrow, the new terminal could be used by Sir Richard Branson's airline Virgin Atlantic as well as by members of the airline group Star Alliance, which includes British carrier bmi, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines.

Known as Heathrow East, the BAA plan will be for the demolition of Terminal 2 and the adjacent Queen's Building office block, with the new terminal being built on the site and spreading to the east.

BAA stressed today that the plan would not involve any net increase in passenger capacity.

BAA intends to discuss the idea formally with airlines to assess the viability of the project. The plan would also be dependent on regulatory support from the Civil Aviation Authority.

If all goes well, a planning application could be submitted in 2007, permission granted in 2008, work started in 2009 and the terminal completed in time for the 2012 Olympics.

Terminal 5 is due to open in 2008, with British Airways moving its entire operation there. It will be capable of handling more than 30 million passengers a year.

BAA Heathrow managing director Mick Temple said today: "The significant increase in capacity created by Terminal 5 gives us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to look at the rest of Heathrow and think creatively about how we can use our current very limited space better.

"We are excited by the idea of Heathrow East, but at the moment it is still just an idea. We aim to discuss the possibilities with our airlines and the CAA to see if we can make it a reality. Our vision is to create the world's greatest international hub airport in the world's greatest city."

Heathrow's business strategy director Mike Forster said: "If we go ahead with this development it would help Heathrow to become an airport with terminal facilities and an airfield layout consistent with both efficient operations and a world-class experience for passengers.

"For passengers, our vision translates into a much easier journey through the terminals and unrivalled onward connections - by air and by easy access to road and rail links."

Virgin Atlantic's chief executive Steve Ridgway said: "Heathrow may be one of the world's busiest airports but its patchwork growth means that it certainly isn't one of the world's most attractive or easiest to use for passengers.

"Radical new plans like the one BAA has outlined today are long overdue. We look forward to seeing BAA develop these proposals and provide the whole airline community and its customers with a standard comparable to BA's new facilities in Terminal 5."

As it is building on existing premises, BAA should not run into the long, protracted planning process that blighted the Terminal 5 development.

Also, unlike Terminal 5, the new terminal would not require new rail and road links.