UK’s construction flagship hit by massive cost and time overruns on M&E packages

The £4.3bn Heathrow Terminal 5 project in west London may not be complete when the scheme opens next spring, despite the project being hailed as the benchmark for UK construction.

T5-owner BAA has been forced to throw an extra £90m at the project to boost the number of workers after more fit-out work was required than originally thought.

BAA had budgeted for 6 million man hours of M&E work, but it has already exceeded this by almost 50% in the hope of opening the building, designed by Lord Rogers, by next March.

About 1,300 electricians are still working on fitting out shops and restaurants, and in an indication of the amount of work remaining, some union representatives that were due to leave in February will remain on site up to the opening date of the terminal.


A senior union source said this week there was “no way” the M&E work would be complete by the opening date, although that would not prevent it opening. He said: “Terminal 5 isn’t like a Wembley, where everything has to be complete before a safety certificate is granted. The M&E staff are working alongside the finishers now, and they’ll be there after the doors have opened.”

It was unclear this week whether this would lead to parts of the terminal being closed to the public. A BAA spokesperson said: “In any major airport there will be continuing maintenance work, but for T5 to open we will need comprehensive certification, and completion of the M&E work will be crucial towards that.”

BAA emphasised this week that it had been reimbursed for the additional M&E work by outside clients, saying that the additional hours were the result of changes to the scope of works.

It said: “Since set in 2002, the scope of work on T5 has changed as we have taken on third-party work. We have been reimbursed for this and Terminal 5 remains on time and budget. We look forward to welcoming our first passengers on 27 March 2008.”

M&E work is covered by the Major Projects Agreement, which offers electricians salaries of £55,000 a year and benefits in return for increased productivity.

Terminal 5, which started onsite in 2002, has been hailed as an exemplar project by industry figures. The new terminal will cater for 30 million passengers a year and ease congestion on Heathrow’s existing runways.