London Heathrow Terminal 2 offers faster transit and more room for planes

February 17, 2012


Heathrow Terminal 2 offers faster transit and more room for planes

The £2.3bn development, which will open to passengers in 2014, will handle up to 20 million passengers a year

Gwyn Topham
The Guardian

While the Norman Foster vision for a shiny new airport in the Thames Estuary is still fantasy, his design for a brighter, better slice of Heathrow has now taken full shape. The shell of Terminal 2, a glass-walled, undulating counterpoint to Terminal 5 across the airport, has been completed, an impressive feat of construction made doubly so for having been achieved in the middle of a fully functioning, groaning-to-capacity hub airport.
The £2.3bn development will handle up to 20 million passengers a year, and is, says Heathrow’s boss, “part of the process of making the whole airport just more efficient”. Colin Matthews, CEO of owners BAA, says that while he believes that passengers using the terminal will have “a great experience” with quicker streams from check-in to departure gate and from arrival to clearing customs, the project also goes some way in unpicking the jumbled layout planes face.
He says: “The west end of the airport is laid out [so] aircraft can taxi efficiently… If you look at the east side we’ve got these corners, cul-de-sacs, bends, that can block planes.” The “toast rack” layout of new stands around T2 will, like T5 at the far end, make it simpler for all planes, including the massive A380s, to manouevre.
Terminal 2 is scheduled to open to passengers in 2014, though the full transformation of Heathrow may be some years off. “We know what the masterplan is – but how fast we progress towards that depends on airlines view of what’s affordable,” says Matthews. A second phase will extend T2 into the old Terminal 1.
The mammoth project is some way from completion, with even more construction staff set to join the thousands working on T2 to fit out the interior. As much work as possible has been done away from Heathrow, to minimise deliveries and disruption. Factories in Liverpool and Wolverhampton have assembled panels and frames; John Holland-Kaye, BAA’s commercial director, makes the proud claim that every single British constituency has had some hand in manufacturing parts, producing materials or otherwise contributing to the new terminal’s construction.
The old Terminal 2, demolished after 54 years of service, was Heathrow’s first terminal, originally called the “Europa Building”. Designed to deal with 1.2 million passengers a year, it had to handle 8 million annually by the time it closed in 2009. That kind of statistic goes some way to explaining Heathrow’s dismal reputation in decades past – a reputation that the continuing investment in handsome new terminals must surely change.

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