'Topping out' ceremony at Heathrow


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The Independent Online

Work that it is hoped will transform the UK's biggest airport reached a key stage today with a "topping out" ceremony at a £2.5 billion new terminal.

The ceremony marked the end of major structural work at the new Terminal 2 at Heathrow airport in west London.

With its first phase opening in 2014, the new terminal will be capable of handling 20 million passengers a year and is part of a £4.3 billion package of work at Heathrow.

Despite the new terminal, Heathrow's operators BAA continues to press the Government to change its mind and agree to expansion at Heathrow, where ministers have abandoned plans for a third runway.

BAA chief executive Colin Matthews said today: "Terminal 5 (at Heathrow) set a new standard for airport terminals. The completion of structural work on Terminal 2 puts us within touching distance of a future where Heathrow has some of the best passenger facilities in Europe.

"There's a lot still to do, but the opening of Terminal 2 could move Heathrow into pole position among European hub airports and allow us to set our sights on elite airports such as Singapore, Hong Kong and Incheon in Seoul (South Korea)"

Transport Secretary Justine Greening said: "For tens of millions of people each year Heathrow is their first impression of the UK, which is why it is so important that it is a positive one.

"We have been clear that we want to improve the experience of those travelling through our airports, and this new terminal will do just that.

"This is also a success story for the country's construction industry, with British-made steel, electronics and engineering responsible for a state-of-the-art facility."

To minimise disruption to passengers, construction of Terminal 2 is taking place in two phases. The first phase will see the creation of the main terminal on the site of the old Terminal 2 and Queen's Building.

It also involves the construction of a satellite terminal with additional aircraft parking stands and passenger gates called Terminal 2B. This first phase is due to open to passengers in 2014.

The second phase would extend the main Terminal 2 building northwards onto the existing Terminal 1 site.

This phase, which would also include the construction of a second satellite building, T2C, would increase the capacity of Terminal 2 from 20 million passengers a year to 30 million passengers a year.

Opened in 1955, the old Terminal 2 shut in 2009 and was demolished in 2010. It was Heathrow's first terminal, originally called the Europe Building.

Originally designed to deal with 1.2 million passengers a year, it was dealing with eight million annually when it closed.

Meanwhile, a poll commissioned by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers indicated that building a third runway at Heathrow is a more popular option to deal with the UK's airport capacity crunch than a new airport in the Thames Estuary - a project favoured by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

The poll of 1,001 people showed that a third runway was favoured by 25% of respondents, with 21% backing the new estuary airport.

When asked if they believed the Government was right to block Heathrow's third runway, 35% agreed while 32% thought it was the wrong decision.