BAA'S £300M gamble in beginning detailed design of Heathrow Terminal 5 ahead of government approval for the £2bn project paid off when transport secretary Stephen Byers gave it the go-ahead at the end of November.
The airport operator decided 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 (GE December 2001).
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 programmed 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.' Terminal 5 will expand Heathrow's capacity to 90M passengers a year. Construction will take four and a half years and create 6000 construction jobs. The earliest opening date is 2008.
In his statement to the House of Commons Byers placed restrictions on the planning approval that are likely to affect the construction programme.
These included a requirement for extension of the underground Piccadilly Line and Heathrow Express rail link to be complete before the terminal opens for business. Both will be in twin bored tunnels up to 3.5km long.
According to a London Underground spokesman, an agreement between LUL and BAA on how to fund the tube extension was still being negotiated.
In its evidence to the T5 inquiry BAA said one option was to complete the Heathrow Express first and follow with the Piccadilly Line extension once agreement was reached with LUL. BAA is likely to pay the £70M cost of the two 3.5km single track bored tunnels with LUL paying the airport operator track access charges over 30 years.
Byers also insisted that a scheme to divert the Longford and Duke of Northumberland rivers had to gain separate planning permission before any work could start on the Terminal 5 site.
He also put a stop to plans promoted by the Highways Agency to improve road access to Heathrow by widening the westbound M4 between Junctions 3 and 4b. Plans for a spur road connection to the M25 will go ahead.