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Heathrow approves the new T2 baggage system, with T1 demolition and T2 extension to follow

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The development of the Central Terminal Area at Heathrow has taken a step forward with the signing of the contract for the new Terminal 2 baggage systems.

This will cascade a series of changes which will allow incremental expansion as the third runway project potentially falls away. The sale of Ferrovial’s stake in the airport – with the Saudi government expected to end up with a controlling 60% shareholding – is seen by many as a sign that the runway project is dead.

Let’s take a step back though.

Heathrow Terminal 2 new baggage system

Terminal 2 was built on the cheap, compared to Terminal 5. When you are inside it doesn’t look cheap, which is a tribute to the architects and designers. To be fair, it was building on solid ground (T5 was a literally a brownfield site, built on a sewage treatment plant!) and didn’t require extensive new road connections or (as happened with T5) the diversion of two rivers. T5 remains the largest free-standing structure in the UK.

One way money was saved, however, was by not building a baggage handling system. When Terminal 1 was closed, the baggage handling system was kept open. When you check in a bag at Terminal 2, it goes off to the derelict T1 for processing. The baggage handling system in Terminal 1 is now 30 years old.

What has Heathrow agreed?

A contract has been signed with BEUMER Group to construct a ‘state-of-the-art’ replacement baggage system in Terminal 2.

BEUMER has a lot of experience at Heathrow, and was responsible for the design, installation and commissioning of the existing conveyor system between Terminal 2 and Terminal 1.

Heathrow Terminal 1

Once the new system is open, Terminal 1 can finally be demolished. The empty shell has been sitting there since June 2015 when flights ceased.

With Terminal 1 gone, work can begin on the extension of Terminal 2. The main building was designed with the extension in mind and this should be a relatively straightforward job. This would also enable the eventual demolition of Terminal 3 and the addition of further satellite terminals to create a pure ‘toast rack’ layout across the airport.

When will this happen?

The full timetable isn’t not clear. BEUMER Group is talking of a ‘six year project‘, which Heathrow confirmed to us is just the time taken to get the new baggage system operational.

That seems long for what is ‘just’ a baggage project – remember that Terminal 2 itself took less than that to build. I am told that the time required is due to the complexity of the project, which requires the new system be built whilst the terminal continues to rely on the old one before the eventual switch-over.

This means that we are looking at 2030 before any work starts on demolishing Terminal 1 and construction work on the extension of Terminal 2 can begin. It’s something for your kids to look forward to though …..

Comments (99)

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  • Novice says:

    In my first year of travel, I used to take a bigger luggage case and then check it in as I used to think I definitely need a lot of the things I am taking. But, after always having to wait; I realised it was time to take a more minimalist approach and since then I have gone everywhere for however long with just a cabin size luggage case. The longest I have been away was 18 days in one go so I believe if I can fit stuff for 18 days in a cabin luggage case then anyone can do the same if they don’t like how baggage is handled.

    However I do agree with JDB.

    • Blair Waldorf Salad says:

      Bear in mind for those who don’t live in the London hinterland, initial/final leg flights on connecting itineraries are often flown on smaller aircraft with smaller cabin bag size limits. If one set off from MAN via DUB to JFK on Aer Lingus Regional, the cabin bag size and weight would be tight indeed. You certainly wouldn’t have room to pack for different weather conditions, a night at the Met, etc.

  • Andrew says:

    “When will this happen?
    The full timetable isn’t not clear”

    well that’s clear

  • Paul says:

    We are a joke in this country when it comes to infrastructure projects. 6 years to build a baggage system? Unbelievable. Get it done in 1 year.

    To the nay sayers, of course it’s possible. Look what we did when it came to Covid, the vaccine, the roll-out. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Elon would have it done in a fraction of the time.

    • Rob says:

      Elon did get a Tesla gigafactory built from scratch (date of permit issuance) in China in 168 days. Best not to ask too closely how that actually got done though ….

    • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

      The science behind the RNA vaccines wasn’t developed in a day.It was developed over a number of years.

      Vaccine companies producing large amounts of vaccines in a sort space of time is their bread and butter. Ditto medical supply companies producing syrunges and needles and the associated what nots.

      But all of that infrastructure and kowledge was build up over a number of years. Very little needed to be set up form scratch.

      If you think you can get it done in a year – whilst still operating T2 as normail – then I’m sure HAL would be more than willing to listed to you!

      • Paul says:

        I’m guessing you’re the type that would also justify HS2 taking 20+ years.. There is no getting the round the fact we are a laughing stock. There is no justification for any of this – ultimately it’s wasted time for all of us.

        The reason it takes so long is layers upon layers of middle management that don’t actually do much other than pen pushing and power point crafting who do little more than 9-5 pay check collect! The corporate world is full of these type too.

        Merry Christmas

        • Bernard says:

          Glad I don’t have to sit next to me miserable on a plane anytime soon

        • Rob says:

          I’d love to hear from someone in a high paying middle management job with a major private company who works 9-5 ….

        • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

          It takes that long not because of ‘middle magagers’ who actually make the thing run but the project is of such size it can’t be completed any quicker.

          There are only a limited number of companies that can build TBMs and they don’t come off the shelf. They can only work at certain speeds and they need to await the delivery of the concrete lining rings.

          Ditto for all sorts of other supply chainss

          You don’t seem to have any practical sense of how long things do take.

          You’ve not said why you think they should be able to build the the new baggage system in 1 year.

          Saying that sort of thing is easy. It’s harder to explain why you think that.

          • JDB says:

            Also for what it’s worth while everyone is saying the project is going to take six years, it isn’t. What has been announced this week is actually very preliminary and work won’t start until at least 2025. Lots more approvals still required.

          • Charles Martel says:

            You can’t even start tunnelling until you’ve protected the services in the settlement zone and you can’t do that until you’ve identified where they are (rather than where people think they are based on drawings going back (in some cases) one hundred years, not to mention clients don’t pay for detailed design until they’ve got approval/financing based on concept. You can also lose years to archeological digs.

          • Will says:

            Did you see how many km of high speed rail has been completed in china since HS2 was “signed off”

        • JDB says:

          @Paul – HS2 is a public sector project. Governments all over the world are utterly hopeless at running companies or projects. The T2 project is extremely complex, can only be done in very specific phases and can’t start until the prior project of the baggage recovery facility also only just approved is completed. Retrofitting and working on a live airfield bringing and removing huge volumes of materials plus many new building and planning regs. HAL is heavily incentivised with bonuses and penalties. The removal of kit from asbestos ridden T1 and eventual demolition horrendously complicated for even the top international contractors.

        • Will says:

          A large part of the reason HS2 has such a silly timetable is because the gov elected to fund it over an extended period in order to minimise the per annum cost. Of course it’s meant to be an economic benefit so that’s a strange choice,

          They did it with the aircraft carriers too which increase the total cost of them.

          • Rob says:

            It’s also almost entirely tunnelled. Most people don’t realise this. You will be spending 75% of the trip to Birmingham underground.

    • Joe says:

      Agree. The fact that people reply disagreeing is the problem. No sense of ambition or urgency. Literally holding back humanity.

      • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

        So perhaps you can explain how this job could be done in a year since Paul refuses to?

        Perhaps the people disagreeing with that notion realise that these are complicated projects working in challenging and restricted environments.

    • Rich says:

      The Germans struggled to build and open their new airport in Berlin as I recall it.

  • Roy says:

    I’m not sure that the current T1/T2 baggage handling arrangements are solely (or even mainly) down to chat cutting.

    Remember that the integrated baggage handling system had to be up and running – and serving terminals 1, 3, 4 & 5 – in time for the Olympics (T2 wasn’t yet open), and then transition to serving terminals 2, 3, 4 & 5 soon after. It’s difficult to see what else they could have done.

  • Roy says:

    *cost cutting

  • Nick says:

    What a joke of a country… China can build a new runway or even entire airport in a matter of weeks. This country is finished.

    • BA Flyer IHG Stayer says:

      matter of weeks?

      don’t be so ridiculous.

      • Steve says:

        Tell that to a navvy

        How much would a navvy dig in a day? A typical day’s work for a navvy was said to be the filling of 14 wagons with each wagon holding 2.25 cubic yards of muck and being
        filled by two men. So each navvy would have to lift nearly 20 tons of earth on a shovel over his head and into the wagon each day.

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