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Heathrow constructs new terminal December 6, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture.

Two gigantic halls, 300 elevators and escalators, and a bill of €6 billion ($7.9 billion): future Terminal 5 of Heathrow Airport, whose building site was opened November 30 in west London, must handle 100 million people every year.

“It is not a single terminal,” said Andrew Wolsthenholme, who has been directing work on the site since September 2002. Two buildings are to open their doors at the end of March 2008, along with a third in 2011, to unclog and modernize the busiest airport in Europe, opened in 1946.

The first, T5A, is the biggest: 396 meters (1,299 feet) long, and 176 meters wide. It will accommodate short- and medium-haul flights for British Airways (BA).

The second, T5B, is 442 meters long and 42 meters wide, and is planned for long-distance air traffic, with four piers for the A380 super-jumbo manufactured by the European aircraft company Airbus. BA has not yet ordered the massive plane, unlike its competitor Virgin Atlantic.

In total, the two buildings will include 52 loading piers, which will augment Heathrow’s traffic capacity by 27 million passengers per year from 2008, and by an additional 3 million after 2011, on top of the current capacity of 68 million.

The total available surface area of the two buildings, made of steel and glass, is 200,000 square meters, over several levels. It accommodates 120 shops, bars, and restaurants. To convey passengers from the center of London, the Piccadilly line of the underground network and the Heathrow Express train line have been extended.

The terminal is also connected to the M25 motorway, putting it at the center of London’s transport network. An automated shuttle will make it possible to move between the new terminal and adjacent buildings.

The colossal building site extends over 260 hectares and involves 60 companies. About 8,500 workers have worked there at the same time. One of them died in an accident, but BAA, the company that runs the airport, insists that the risks have been reduced as much as possible for a project of this size.

“Forget about Wembley when you’re thinking of Heathrow and Terminal 5,” said Wolsthenholme, referring to the renovation of the London stadium, which has been widely regarded as a fiasco, having been delayed by several months.

The construction of Terminal 5, approved in November 2001 after the longest public inquiry in British history, 46 months, still provokes debate, despite the fact that the building site is 87 percent finished.

According to some town planners, the site, too old and poorly situated, should in the long-term be replaced by an airport built on an artificial island on the River Thames, similar to that of Hong Kong’s Chep Lap Kok airport.

“Relocation to almost any site outside the Greater London boundary would result in a net improvement,” as regards to the harmful effects of noise and pollution, according to a study published in May by the Town and Country Planning Association.

The question of a third runway has also been raised, in the hope of raising capacity. The government decided in 2003, however, to instead build a second one at Stansted airport, northeast of the capital.

Heathrow, where the number of flights will remain limited to 480,000 per year, despite the construction of the new terminal, is thus counting on larger planes and better efficiency to counter the growth in the number of passengers.

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