TERMINAL 5 engineering design was put on hold last Monday by Heathrow Airport operator BAA.
Half the design team of external consultants and engineering contractors will be laid off from the pounds 1.8bn project. The core team of 110 people left will concentrate on architecture of the terminal building itself.
'It's a blow for everybody on the project,' said Terminal 5 project director Norman Haste. We are reducing the size (of the team) quite drastically.'
BAA and airline BA had originally hoped to begin actual construction on of the terminal in July 2000. It would have employed 6,000 people. But on Tuesday Haste admitted: 'I don't know when we are going to be able to start.'
Radical stopgap measures are being put forward to reduce the ever-increasing passenger and aircraft congestion at Heathrow. BAA will now look at every corner of the airport to see if extra space can be found to build aircraft stands that can be constructed with in the existing airport.
The plan would see passengers carried by bus from the existing terminals to these new stands which will have to be built on areas already owned by BAA. 'We can't encroach on Perry Oaks and the land owned by Thames Water (the proposed Terminal 5 site). We are looking at opportunities on existing airport land,' said Haste.
Referring to the job losses on the Terminal 5 project, he emphasised: 'I want to do my best by individuals. They have got to refocus their own lives on a different job. We will release some more or less straight away, within two weeks as soon as the work they are doing is in a tidy state.'
The cause of the delay is the overrun on Terminal 5's public inquiry which is not expected to finish until next February. It could then take a further two years for the inspector's report to be written. There could follow an indeterminate wait for go ahead from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions.
At Manchester Airport, this final process to clear the environmentally sensitive second runway for construction on its own took two years.
Haste's current plan is to re-activate the mothballed designs in September 1999, bringing back resources 'gradually'.
News of the decision was broken to representatives of the 30 external contractors on Monday. They include Amec, Brown & Root, Laing, Miller Dumez, Mott MacDonald and Tarmac Professional Services.
Less affected are designers working on architectural aspects of the main terminal building: Richard Rogers Partnership, YRM and airport planning and space consultant HOK.
'It wasn't totally unexpected,' said Haste. He emphasised that he would continue to consultation with BAA's external partners and added: 'We have to get the balance of resources right for Terminal 5 and not make unfair demands on the companies involved.'
Design costs were running in excess of pounds 1M a month. Yesterday Haste assembled the entire 200 plus people 'giving primary input' to Terminal 5 at the main project office in Heathrow and explained the cutback.
The original intention had been to have the design 'just about complete' by the end of the public inquiry. Delays to the inquiry meant that there was a risk of the design becoming obsolete, explained Haste. 'Things don't stay still, they are changing all the time.' Advances in technology involved in passenger and baggage handling could mean that: 'If we are not on stream for seven or eight years we could be out of date'