BAA's £300M gamble to start detailed design of Heathrow Terminal 5 (T5) ahead of government approval for the project paid off this week when transport secretary Stephen Byers gave the go ahead for the £2bn scheme.
The airport operator took the decision in February to spend the money on detailed design of key elements of the project, including the terminal and station box, to shorten the construction time frame by nine months (NCE last week).
BAA chief executive Mike Hodgkinson welcomed the government's decision as 'good news for the economy, the aviation industry, the travelling public and the local community'.
The civil engineering community greeted the announcement with relief. 'Terminal 5 has been progammed into our workloads for a long time. We are glad it is going ahead at last, ' said Civil Engineering Contractors Association economic adviser Jim Turner. 'If it hadn't, it would have been a great big slap across the face with a wet cod and would have seriously damaged confidence.'
The new terminal will expand Heathrow Airport's capacity to 90M passengers a year. Construction will take four and a half years and create 6,000 construction jobs. Earliest opening date is 2008.
But in his statement to the House of Commons, Byers placed important restrictions on planning approval which are likely to affect the construction program. These included a demand that extension of the Piccadilly Line Tube and Heathrow Express rail link to T5 be complete before the terminal is opened for business.
According to a London Underground (LUL) spokesman, an agreement between LUL and BAA on how to fund the tube extension was still being negotiated. BAA stated in its evidence to the inquiry that one option was to complete the Heathrow Express first and follow with the Piccadilly Line extension once agreement with LUL could be reached. BAA is likely to pay the £70M construction cost of the two 3.5km long single track bored tunnels, with LUL paying the airport operator track access charges over 30 years.
Byers also insisted that a scheme to divert two rivers crossing the site had to gain separate planning permission before any work could start on the T5 site. Plans for the river diversions changed last year and Byers felt he could not put them through on the nod.
Byers also put a stop to plans, promoted by the Highways Agency and adopted by BAA's T5 Surface Access Policy, to improve road access to Heathrow by widening the M4 between Junctions 3 and 4b on the way out of London. Plans for a spur road connection to the M25 will go ahead however. 'The secretary of state has made a decision and we will have to abide by it, ' said a Highways Agency spokesman of the M4 decision.
Restrictions on car parking have also been introduced to to encourage use of public transport to T5 for passengers and employees, Byers said.
The current cap on the number of flights Heathrow can handle - 460,000 a year - has been raised by 20,000, he added. This is likely to make Heathrow the destination for large long haul jets with smaller, short haul flights moving to other airports.
Groups opposed to T5 are considering a legal challenge.
Who is building T5
BAA is managing the project itself rather than engaging a specialist firm of project or construction managers. Six integrated teams of contractors, designers and suppliers will focus on rail and tunnels, buildings, civil engineering, systems and engineering, baggage and logistics.
Major companies involved in delivery Laing - civil engineering infrastructure and logistics.
Amec - M&E services and airfield pavements.
O'Rourke - structural concrete frames.
Morgan/Vinci - tunnels.
Richard Rogers - lead architect for buildings.
Mott MacDonald - tunnel and civil engineering design consultant.
Ove Arup - structural design consultant.
TPS - landside campus and airfield pavement design.
Brown & Root - highways design.
TUNNEL FACTS lHeathrow Express extension.
Two 3.4km single track tunnels, 5.675m internal diameter, primarily bored - cut and cover at station.
Piccadilly Line extension Two 3.5km single track tunnels, 4.5m internal diameter. Primarily bored - cut and cover at station.
Underground people mover linking core terminal building with satellites.
600m cut and cover lStorm water outfall tunnel 2.44m internal diameter 4km bored tunnel
There will be a main terminal and two satellites buildings.
The core building is 400m long and 150m wide.
Both satellites will be 60m wide with satellite one 522m long and satellite two 594m long.
Total floor space is 373,100m