London Heathrow's new £4.2 billion ($8 billion U.S.) Terminal 5 (T5) is scheduled to open in March 2008. The 60-gate, 30-million capacity building will be dedicated exclusively to British Airways and provide much needed terminal and airside space at the world's busiest international airport.
The move to T5 will enable the UK carrier to vacate T1 and T4. The size of British Airways in 2008 will mean that the airline's full operation will not immediately fit into Terminal 5 so a small number of services (less than 10 percent) will be located nearby in Terminal 3, alongside BA's oneworld partners, Qantas and Iberia.
T5 is a huge site, comprising 260 hectares-just less than one quarter of the entire Heathrow complex. Approximately 18km of conveyor belt will move bags around while 13.5km of bored tunnels - about one third of the channel tunnel distance - will include connections to the Heathrow Express and Piccadilly Line train services
. The project also involves a new air traffic control tower, a 4,000 space parking lot, a new connection to the M25 motorway, a 600-bed hotel and the diversion of two rivers.
The sheer size of the facility, which will take the airport's capacity to around 90 million passengers per annum, entails significant changes for ground support services.
"T5 brings with it the opportunity for us to change the way we work," says Colin McWilliam, British Airways General Manager Ramp Services. "Not only will there will be less movement for both passengers and staff from terminal to terminal, but by positioning equipment at each individual aircraft stand there will be less movement around the terminal.
"The stands will have their own designated elevators to load cargo and baggage and passenger steps and baggage tugs to help increase effi ciency and improve safety," he adds.
AVAILABLE AND CAPABLE
One of the companies working for BA on the ground is VT Airside Solutions (VTAS), a wholly owned subsidiary of VT plc and previously known as Lex Transfleet Airside Solutions. In 2003 it won a 10-year contract with British Airways to manage and maintain ground support equipment across four UK facilities; Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester and Birmingham.
The services provided include:
- Fleet Management
- Workshop Management
- Inventory Management
- Whole Life Asset Cost Control
- IT Systems and Processes
- Asset Procurement and Disposal
The contract also includes risk transfer and specific service levels in respect of ground support equipment availability and breakdown response guarantees.
"We basically need to make sure vehicles are available and of the requisite quality," says Gordon Reynolds, airside director, VTAS. "We have to be as efficient as possible and deliver savings for BA. This is done through the timely replacement and good utilization of the 6,500 or so assets."
The nascent T5 project allows Reynolds to describe the situation there as "cradle to grave management for the entire ground support fleet," suggesting the £38 million ($72 million) budget for GSE procurement must be used wisely.
"The design and positioning of T5 means there are plenty of ramps and tunnels to negotiate," Reynolds explains. "Some of the ramps have a one in 19 slope, equivalent to a five percent gradient. This is unique to T5, which means new equipment is needed, particularly baggage tractors."
VTAS has scoured the market to determine availability of the appropriate machines and has also been involved in some research and development projects. The company is also keenly aware of the sensitive environmental situation at Heathrow and will need to ensure vehicle emissions go beyond current EU directives.
"There are two options on BA's table right now," the VTAS director informs. "They can go either for high-powered pure electric vehicles, which have 90-percent more power than those they are using today or they can choose a hybrid, which can be switched between diesel and electric motors as required."
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