THERE is something uncommonly reassuring about Sir John Egan, chief executive of BAA, the airports operator. A product of Bacup & Rawtenstall grammar school, he is a northerner who keeps his feet firmly on the ground. We met for lunch last week the day after BAA had announced its planning application to build a fifth terminal at Heathrow.
He was full of his plans for the new building, which is being designed by Richard Rogers, famed for his Lloyd's of London headquarters and the Pompidou Centre in Paris.
'T5', as it is now known in BAA speak, will be quite unlike the company's last big enterprise, the transformation of Stansted. That new airport building was designed by Sir Norman Foster, who was pretty much allowed a free hand.
It was Sir Norman who conceived the notion that people should be able to 'see through' the terminal, that it should be all glass, front and back, with minimal obstructions inside. Unfortunately, that meant there was no space for airline offices, which had to be added separately.
Stansted cost pounds 400m to build and is not expected to start paying for itself until 1996 at the earliest. Rogers, by contrast, will work strictly to a tight brief supplied by Sir John. Everything, including which individual navvy does what and for how long, will be decided beforehand. And 'T5' is not the only addition to Heathrow that Sir John has up his sleeve. Plans for a pounds 20m building specifically for transit passengers are also proceeding apace. Gone, thank goodness, will be the sight of people sprawled out like refugees as they wait to make connections. Gone, too, will be jet-lagged passengers wandering around like lost souls. They will have their own separate facilities. Sir John cannot wait. With 20 per cent of Heathrow's passengers transferring to other flights, that makes around 100,000 people a day using the new premises and - he says with a gleam in his eye - its shops.
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