LEGAL CHALLENGES or a judicial review are expected to delay construction of Heathrow Airport's Terminal 5 if the project gets the go-ahead as expected next week.
Airport operator BAA said this week that it expected the government to give the green light to the £2bn project within the next seven days.
But it is anticipating strong objections to planning permission even after the four year planning inquiry which ended in March 1999.
It also expects strict planning controls to be imposed. These could force a rethink on parts of the project.
If the scheme goes ahead it will be the country's second biggest construction project, pipped only by the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.
BAA has offered to cap night flights and restrict car parking spaces to encourage more use of public transport to get people to the terminal.
It is also proposing to extend the Piccadilly Underground line and the Heathrow Express (HEX) high speed rail link to T5, as well as building slip roads to a spur road link to the M25 motorway.
Any or all of these offers could be accepted, thrown out or added to, affecting operation of the airport and the design of Terminal 5, a BAA spokesman said.
Once the planning restrictions are known, BAA has to finalise detail designs and apply for detailed planning permission before work can start on site.
On some elements of the project detail design could take up to two years, while key equipment like tunnel boring machines for the 14km of tunnels also needs to be ordered years in advance.
To shorten the time frame, BAA took the risk nine months ago of fixing key design parameters and starting detailed design (NCE 8 February).
These 'key fixes' included the footprint of the terminal, its roof and floor grids, and the vertical and horizontal alignments of the rail tunnels that will carry the Piccadilly Line and HEX into the huge station box below the terminal.
Details of the 150m by 80m crossover cavern immediately outside the station box also had to be fixed. These included its relationship with the tracked transit system which will take passengers out to the two planned satellites.
Speaking to NCE earlier this year, T5 managing director Eryl Smith said these decisions 'would allow detail design to begin while still leaving flexibility on the floor layout to accommodate the rapidly changing needs of the airlines.'
At the moment some 40% of Heathrow passengers arrive by public transport. BAA believes T5 will bring this up to a more respectable 50%, but even this may not be enough to satisfy the planning authorities.
INFOPLUS www. baa. co. uk
What will be built
The £1.2bn job to construct Terminal 5 will include building a terminal structure the size of four new Wembley stadiums and creation of enough retail space to rival a new shopping centre.
Fourteen kilometres of tunnels are required to extend the Tube's Piccadilly line and Heathrow Express rail link underground to the enormous station box beneath T5.
The tunnels will also connect the main terminal with its two satellite buildings and a potential third satellite.
A dedicated dual carriageway spur road to the M25 motorway plus airport link roads are in the planning application, along with a new air traffic control tower and 1Mm 2of aircraft pavement.
Other transport links may include overground rail connections to the terminal from main line routes to Reading and the west and to Woking and the south west.
Terminal 5 will handle 30M of the 80M passengers a year predicted to use Heathrow airport by 2013. Heathrow is currently operating at 10M over its annual 54M capacity.
The downturn in the airline industry since September 11 has made no difference to the case for T5, according to BAA.
The four year public inquiry into the new terminal was Britain's longest and costliest and a direct spur to the government's recent decision to change the inquiry process. The first planning application was submitted in 1993 and the inquiry ran from May 1995 to March 1999.
Commitments made by BAA to counter objections include a promise that the company would not build a third runway at Heathrow, a cap on night flights and car parking and a legally binding guarantee that noise levels will be no greater with T5 than they were in 1994.
The project will take up to six years to build. Earliest opening date is now 2008.