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Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5 to open six months from today

Six months ahead of Heathrow Airport Terminal 5's opening on Thursday 27 March 2008, airport operator BAA has recruited 15,000 passengers to test every aspect of the new building, including car parking, check-in, baggage systems, way-finding and security.

“BAA is enormously proud of Terminal 5, which represents a stunning new gateway to the UK, and marks the start of Heathrow’s transformation,” said Stephen Nelson, chief executive officer of BAA. “Terminal 5 will redefine the passenger experience at Heathrow, in terms of customer service and improved facilities. It is an enormous step forward in the transformation of the airport and will significantly reduce congestion around the existing infrastructure.

“The construction of Terminal 5 has set new benchmarks for building large-scale infrastructure on time and on budget. With less than six months to go, we remain on track to deliver the world-class experience that Heathrow’s passengers deserve” he added.

This year, 68 million passengers will fly through Heathrow, using terminal facilities designed to accommodate 45 million people. When Terminal 5 opens, 30 million passengers will move out of the existing terminals, giving BAA a once in a life-time opportunity to redevelop the rest of the airport.

BAA is already redeveloping Terminal 3 and when Terminal 5 opens, will modernise Terminals 1 and 4. BAA has also received planning permission to build a new, environmentally-efficient terminal called Heathrow East (replacing Terminal 2 and The Queens Building).

Nelson said: “By 2012, we could have effectively created a new airport for London, with the majority of our passengers travelling through facilities that are not operational today.”

The Terminal 5 complex features 60 new aircraft stands; two satellite buildings (the second to be completed by 2010); extensions of the London Underground and Heathrow Express; a new multi-storey car park and control tower.

Construction of the £4.3bn billion terminal complex began in 2002. Since then, the project has successfully moved 9 million cubic metres of earth; erected the roof of UK’s biggest free-standing building; transported the 900t top cab of a new 87m high control tower 2km across the airfield; bored over 13km of tunnels for rail and baggage; diverted two rivers; and installed over 30,000 sq metres of glass facades. All of Terminal 5’s footprint is contained within a former sewage works at the western end of the existing airport, situated between the two runways, adjacent to the M25.


Terminal 5 is the biggest free standing building in the UK. The main terminal building is 40m high, 396m long and 176m wide. Its single span 18,500t roof was lifted into position over eleven months, and is held up by 22 huge steel leg structures. The facades are fully-glazed with 5,500 glass panels which lean out at 6.5 degrees, which combined with the wave-form roof, give the building its distinct shape.

The Terminal 5 baggage system is the biggest, single-terminal baggage handling system in Europe. It is highly sophisticated but has been designed for performance and reliability so only includes the best of proven technology. Transfer and late bags, are assigned a priority routing through a separate high speed baggage system and delivered direct to the aircraft stand of the departing flight.

Terminal 5 has is own dedicated railway station with six platforms: two for the Heathrow Express, two for the London Underground Piccadilly Line and two spare platforms safeguarded for Crossrail.

Waste heat from the existing combined heat and power station at Heathrow is being piped to Terminal 5 through an underground pipeline and will provide Terminal 5 with 85% of its heat on demand.

Water from Terminal 5’s rainwater harvesting and groundwater boreholes is being used for non-potable uses, reducing the demand on the mains water supply by 70%. The harvesting scheme re-uses up to 85% of the rainfall that falls on the Terminal 5 campus.

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