System T5 Risk

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Dissertation Objectives

  • Investigate the problems at the terminal 5 opening, especially with the baggage handling system despite extensive simulated testing using thousands of bags and more than two thousand volunteers in the run up to the opening of T5
  • Identify the necessary risk strategies to be considered for such mega-projects, the benefits of such approaches, taking into account previous failed and successful projects, and any lessons to be learnt
  • Discuss the implementation approach adopted by BAA and the risk associated with this approach
  • Provide formative evaluation summarising key findings and conclusion based on evidence gathered from research

T5 Synopsis

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The terminal 5 project in addition to being a statement of intent for the future of British aviation was built with the aim of improving customer experience and to exhibit Heathrow as a world class international airport. The baggage handling system at T5 was designed to be the largest baggage handling system in Europe for a single terminal. The system consists of a main baggage sorter and a fast track system. The system was designed by an integrated team from BAA, BA and Vanderlande Industries of the Netherlands, with the aim of handling both intra-terminal and inter-terminal luggage. Its processing capacity was intended to be 70,000 bags a day. Bags are meant to undergo several processes on the way through the system, these include; automatic identification, explosives screening, fast tracking for urgent bags, sorting and automatic sorting and passenger reconciliation.

The scheduled completion and opening date was March 2008, and T5 was on time and on budget. This was a remarkable achievement especially in a sector where project delays and vast overspends are commonplace (the Millennium dome, Wembley stadium and the Scottish Parliament buildings were all opened late and cost a lot more than the original estimate). However, on its first day in operation, T5’s bespoke baggage system was affected by technical software problems, which led to a number of issues, such as cancelled flights, lost baggage, and substantial delays, but more importantly, BA’s challenge were its people issues and integrating teams of staff. Initial reports suggest that the day one issues were less to do with technology issues and more to do with inadequate staff training, and this was not just for one group of people but at all levels. Below is a summary of its problems on the opening day:

  • Hundreds of staff found it difficult finding the staff car park entrance
  • Check-in staff struggled with their systems, these problems ranged from very simple tasks such as logging into the baggage system to complex tasks
  • Security personnel who were totally ignorant of their new roles and had to be taken through new procedures in the morning in front of passengers
  • Ground staff and crews and ground staff getting lost in the huge building
  • Baggage handlers struggled to get a hang of the new baggage system
  • Baggage truck drivers got lost within the terminal and needed directions to the aircraft
  • Baggage drivers and handlers could not get luggage from the conveyors to the gates
  • On nine occasions,

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