BAA's Terminal 5: Ready To Land

Heathrow's expansion is just two years from completion. Mark Rowe takes a peek at this controversial, yet magnificent project

Between 4am and 5am on 30 March 2008, a British Airways flight, probably from the Far East, will land at Heathrow and become the first to decant its passengers into Terminal 5.

The new terminal will provide the airport with an additional capacity of 35 million passengers a year. British Airways, whose operations are currently split between Terminals 1 and 4, will move all of them to the new building, where it will be the main occupant.

The public inquiry into the project lasted almost four years, which made it the longest in British history, and the green light was finally given only in 2001. Since then, BAA, which owns Heathrow, has wasted little time. Construction of this new gateway to the UK began in 2002 and the structure was completed this autumn, including the façade of 5,500 glass panels, covering 30,000sq m.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of building T5 - local residents and environmental groups fought a dogged opposition campaign - the final result will be undeniably spectacular. The project, which is costing BAA £4.2bn, is one of the largest construction projects in European history (though it has not always been a happy one - BAA has faced strikes and protests over bonuses and compensation for the time it takes to reach the site). With a floor space of 260 hectares, T5 is about the same size as Hyde Park or 50 football pitches. It employs 6,500 construction workers and has used 80,000 tonnes of steel.

The public will have access to four levels of the new terminal, while baggage conveyors will run underground for more than 17km. The terminal will house around 140 shops covering 22,000sq m, which will provide 50 per cent of BAA's profits as it seeks to claw back its investment. "We're not a registered charity," Tony Douglas, T5's managing director, points out. "While we want a huge tick in the box that says 'public service provider', we're also a private commercial business, not a philanthropic one."

The main building is more than 400 metres long, while the satellite terminals, T5b and T5c (the former will open in 2008, the latter in 2011), are each as big as Terminal 4. T5's station will have two platforms for the Piccadilly Line, two for the Heathrow Express and a further two that may in the future link into the national rail network.

A defining feature of the new terminal is the single-span 176m roof (the largest single-span structure in the UK) and a pedestrian concourse that links the coach and train stations and car park to the building. The aim is to provide passengers with as smooth and stress-free a journey as possible. Extensive use of natural light will dilute what Mr Douglas described as the "horrid subterranean experience" of most airports and allow clear views of the runways. "So many airports put all sorts of bells and whistles in place but they forget the basics," he said.

The new terminal, designed by the Richard Rogers partnership, will dramatically alter the perception of visitors to Britain, who may ordinarily be forgiven for thinking that, upon arrival at Heathrow, they have landed in an airport designed by, and for, Dawn Man. "The central terminal area is not a happy experience," admitted Mr Douglas. "There is a significant gap between what the original terminals were designed for and what flows through them. T5 will present a first impression that speaks volumes about the UK. It is truly worthy of Brunel in its design. There are no internal columns. All other airports look the same and flying into them is a bit like Groundhog Day, but Heathrow will now have a signature skyline."

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Ashdown Group: Technical IT Manager - North London - Growing business

    £40000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A growing business that has been ope...

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Day In a Page

    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before