Legend has it that the unfortunate Greek messenger Phidippides collapsed and died of exhaustion after completing the first marathon. The team working on Heathrow’s Terminal 5, however, are more likely to die of old age before the £1bn project is finished: a decade on from the start line, not a stone has been laid.
The project has become part of construction mythology. Once upon a time, a very long time ago, the noble architect Richard Rogers and his merry band set out on an epic quest to expand the airport’s capacity at the behest of the king of BAA, St John of Egan. On the way, they overcame the threat of the Civil Aviation Authority dragon but then ran headlong into a massive revolt by local peasants, eventually becoming lost in an immense public inquiry.
The team is now running round in circles while inquiry inspector Roy Vandermeer compiles his report – expected in late 2001 after four years, £80m and 12 million sheets of paper. If the government clears the scheme, the team will be on the home straight – a mere six years from handing over a brand new terminal.