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New terminals, infrastructure and systems to absorb demand

Stansted expansion: Stansted airport is scheduled for a massive increase in passenger capacity following a major programme to enhance the existing infrastructure. The team responsible explains what is happening.

We are aiming for responsible growth and in the next seven years. The benefits will really be felt whenthis phase is over

Beverly Hoare

When the modern airport was first proposed in the early 1980s, Stansted was the butt of some cruel jokes on satirical show “Spitting Image” – why, it was continually asked, was this airport needed? And when it finally opened in 1991, on the site of a former US military airfield, it was a beautiful but rather quiet building in comparison to BAA’s other south east airports at Heathrow and Gatwick.

Yet fast-forward just 17 years, and the jokes are forgotten. The iconic Lord Foster designed terminal is virtually at capacity, benefiting from the staggering growth of low-cost airline carriers. According to the head of Stansted’s projects team Beverley Hoare, growth has been incredible.

But to expand the airport, she has to carefully choreograph incremental increases in capacity that will add up to 10M extra passengers. Expansion on this scale is subject to the outcome of a public inquiry, which is due to conclude this summer. “We are aiming for responsible growth and in the next seven years, we are starting a series of new projects, but the benefits will really be felt when this phase is over,” explains Hoare.

The current plan is to invest £500M to take Stansted from its permitted maximum capacity of 25M passengers per year, up to 35M in 2015/16. Some infrastructure underpinning this expansion has already been completed, says Stansted development director Nick Barton. “Most of the road and rail capacity improvements are done. The M11 link was completed three years ago, building a significant flyover to the A120 and work has been completed on increasing the capacity of the Stansted Express rail link to Liverpool Street,” he says.

A new bus station has also been built, designed by Foster & Partners and matching the existing terminal building. Next will come completion of the arrivals hall, a £55M project which will significantly increase the number of passengers the airport can handle. Hoare says: “15,000m2 has been added in total, but passengers will mostly notice the enlargements at concourse level, with 6,000m2 added at arrivals and immigration.”This includes a new reclaim baggage belt that is due to open to passengers this summer.

Stansted expansion details

Expansion at Stansted is divided into two work programmes worth in total £1.4bn
1. First generation expansion within the existing footprint - total spend is £500M by 2013

A. Central search standardisation programme
B. Arrivals hall extension - complete by summer 2008
C. Extension to satellite 2
D. Hold baggage screening system replacement
E. Baggage handling systems replacement
F. Echo north east - two new stands
G. Additional stand capacity
H. Departure hall extension
2. Second generation expansion assuming construction of second runway (subject to planning inquiry) –£900M by 2013

Mace Aviation is the design and build contractor. The new arrivals extension uses a biomass boiler, making the new area carbon-neutral. A new combined heat and power (CHP) system is being considered for the rest of the main terminal, as the current system is nearing the end of its life, says Hoare.

But adding capacity in one place has consequences elsewhere in the building. More passengers mean more pressure on infrastructure, which is why the roads and rail had to be tackled first. Next comes a £60M improvement to the departures zone. “This will mostly be commercially driven, but there will be capacity improvements too,” says Hoare.

One particularly complex area is the baggage system. Hoare says, the current system works extremely well, and will benefit from a further £26M enhancement. The Baggage Replacement project has 16 phases and is phenomenally complicated,” she says, “but it will make a huge diff erence to ensuring the continued smoothness of the baggage process.”

Passengers familiar with Stansted will already know the rapid transit system to take passengers to the satellite terminals. There are currently three satellites but a fourth satellite is planned for completion towards the end of 2014 . “This is a significant building, and will cost around £90M,” says Barton. “It is in the masterplan for the 2015/16 vision,” says Hoare, “and it will allow an enhanced aircraft parking and embarking experience for passengers,” she adds.

Building a second runway could bring Stansted’s capacity up to 68M in 2030, making it bigger than Heathrow today

Nick Barton

The £90M package will include new links to the main terminal building, which could be either an extension of the rapid transport system, a system of travellators or simply an automated, possibly driverless bus service, says Hoare. “It is likely to be a modular building. The three existing structures are steel-framed with a great deal of glass fronting, and the new building will be made in roughly the same way”, she says.

The transit system itself is in need of some TLC, with an asset replacement programme planned. “We need to refurbish the track and replace the control system,” explains Hoare. Assuming planning permission is forthcoming. Stansted will be under a continuous programme of building for the coming seven years, each project adding capacity benefits which will add 50% more capacity up to 2015/16. “It can be complicated, but it is a logical process,” says Barton.

Following these enhancements Stansted again hits a wall – 35M passengers per year – a problem that could only really be overcome with a second runway. “This could bring Stansted’s capacity up to 68M in 2030, making it bigger then Heathrow today,” says Barton. “But our planning application – all 26,000 pages of it – was only submitted in March so there is a long way to go.”

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