Success and Failure of Project Methods at Heathrow

Modified: 2nd Aug 2018
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This report is prepared to analyze the success and failure of the project methods and its process. For this purpose the project of Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport is discussed.

The Barry Leonard, 2009 explained about project management that it is a process of planning; organizing, allocating and controlling different resources to provide improved result of organizational project. It involves different set of activities to apply techniques and tools for achieving the targets of the project. The projects are carried out with the consideration of different factors which may be time or budget. The starting and ending time of project is always decided before its implication; which provide a benefit to produce successful results.

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The project manager carries out the planning and executing activities of the projects. It has to face many challenges regarding the organizational project. The achievement of project goals; completion of project on time; or utilization of input for obtaining expected output can be major challenges for it. The scope or cost can also become hurdles for meeting targets. The main responsibilities are assigned to project manger to fulfill the demands of clients.

The Terminal 5 is a terminal at Heathrow Airport in London. It is having a structure to stand freely in air and considered a largest building for its standing. It is designed to cover about 35 million passengers each year. The glass and steel is used to build up it structure. Its design was offered in 1989, the United Kingdom passed its planning in 2001. The Queen Elizabeth II made its opening in mid of March 2008, and then its operations started at end of March 2008.


There are five main phases of the “Project Life Cycle”, which provide a proper sequence to initiate or end up the project. It defines first that why there is a need to take a start of project, then problem relating to it, then the planning, controlling or monitoring processes take place to complete it. There can be many factors which create complexity to meet the basic objectives of the project; they may be related to the team performance, budget or size of project.

There are mainly five phases of project life cycle, which are defining, planning, organizing, controlling, and completing. By following these different five phases, the project of Terminal 5 is analyzed here.

Initiating or defining

In this phase, the goals of objectives are defined with the combination of its scope. The list of its objectives is prepared to point out the involvement of the key factors for it. Then the statement of problem is provided to state the expected output by allocating the resources. All of the risks and assumptions are defined in this phase. The risks and uncertainties in mega projects provide a chance to implicate innovated techniques. The project manager is also appointed in this phase; which later on formulate a team after considering their abilities or experience according to the requirement of project. The main tools which are utilized in this phase are plans for business and framework of project (Kim, 2003).

The Terminal 5 Heathrow is the greatest project of the Europe. Its main objective is to extend the range of airport for meeting the volume of its customers from 67 million passengers per year to the 95 million passengers. It is having a purpose to build up a strong structure of glass and steel with the combination of high security and safety to people. For this mega project, the BBA was assumed to select to apply their standard practices; utilize the capital appropriately and use technical competencies to avoid risks. It was targeted to connect the Terminal 5 with the other existing terminals. The risks estimated for the projects were quality of structure; safety for passengers; integrating the systems and working under budget. Its scope was to build up 270,000m² terminal; two satellite buildings and 87 meter control tower for functioning in Heathrow.


Another phase is planning which is consisted of identification of different related activities of project. It also includes a task to estimate the time and cost; review the sequence of activities; and highlighting the critical actions. The specific criteria for achieving the project goals; and completing the task are specified in it. The most important process of writing the proposal is also performed in this phase.

The planning phase of Terminal 5 project was started on 1986 and went up to 2001, when it was finalized that construction should be started now. By BAA, the project director was appointed at main board for handling and reporting from planning to controlling phase. The BAA selected appropriate set of tools for planning the project.

It created an example to build up or construct the largest infrastructure within its defined capital and time. According to Flyvbjerg et al., 2003, its estimated investment was £4.3 billion and time for its completion was expected year of 2008 for phase 1 and 2011 for phase 2. It was estimated to start it on 2002. It was planned very effectively to give a scope for complete the projects under estimated time and cost. Its planning phase started from 1986 and went up to the September, 2002.


The Mishra (2006) described about third phase, that it is related to organizing activities, tasks or team of project. The basic needs are specified; the project manager and team are recruited under it. The work packages are also defined in it. The main task of organizing the team; and identifying the stakeholders are also performed under this phase. For Terminal 5 project, the BAA, private investment, HM Government was sponsored and Richard Rogers Partnership was appointed as Lead Architect. The advanced strategies were used by BAA and its different suppliers for organizing this mega project. The project manager Andrew Wolstenholme, had experience of dealing unexpected situations and risks while completing the Glaxco (GSK) project; he utilized all those methodologies and helped to provide his exceptional skills for T5 project. According to the Norman Haste, first project director of T5, there should be high investment on design for achieving successful completion. However, the designing and the organizing phase started at 1989 and went up to around 2004. In the opinion of Andrew (2009) Single Model Environment (SME) was used for digitally designing; and integrating to the construction phase.


This is an important phase of the project life cycle; because it is assured that all of the operations are performing under a control management. It is also known as execution phase because all of the plans are executed in it. The control tools are defined and status report of the tasks is prepared in it. The Harold (2009) demonstrated that during it, the plans and schedules are reviewed, and order may change according to the requirements. It may be considered as constructing phase for the T5.

For Terminal 5, different designs were developed to bring in a real position. Its construction phase was divided into two phases: one was formation of building and infrastructure which started at 2001 and went up to 2008; other was connecting the systems and equipping the building which took time from 2006 to 2008.

Its control tower was manufactured in 12 meter high sections to avoid the disturbance of aircrafts operations. It was built up by Richard Rogers Partnership. The control tower of £50 million provided 360 degree cone to view which become the most technological controller in 2006 when started for functioning. In 2004, its first segment of single wave roof was placed on it, and then on 2005, sixth and last was on its position. The total weight of this roof was 26,000 tons which created its superstructure. Its high way design allowed passing away the cranes for constructing the other operations in airport.

The staff of Terminal 5 was appointed by the BBA in 2008. The rail station was built up in it with six platforms; two of them were designed for London Underground Piccadilly Line extension; two for Heathrow Express extension; and other two were for connecting to west in future.

The change order required in this project was to have some advancement in its road infrastructure. There was a need to have Airside Road tunnel (ART), which constructed in 2005. The Spur road from M25 was built by Balfour Beatty in 2008.

To control the pollution and drainage the storm water outfall tunnel (SWOT) was arranged. It consisted of one bore tunnel which is having length of 4.1km. It was to recycle the wasted water by BAA. The automated people mover (APM) played their role to create a track transit system which provided facility of transformation between main terminal and satellite building. For providing benefit of transferring passengers and luggage, personal rapid transit (PRT) system of £25 million was applied in July, 2009.


In last phase project manager should assure about the completion of project. It consists of different steps which are forming the agreements in documents forms; acquiring acceptance of clients; arrange deliverable in final form; comparing deliverable products with estimated; and allocating project resources. It also involves a step of informing about completing project to upper management (Michael, 2002).

The allocation of different resources in this project enabled Terminal 5 to take about 30 million and Heathrow to take 90 million passengers a year. On Sep, 2006; two major transport milestones arrived on T5 when the project was completed about 85 percent. In 2007, the staff was trained and system was checked to provide deliverables. Around 40 million person hours were used for construction program since 2002. At T5 the availability of six cars was provided in start; and sixteen provided in 2008. The project was completed very successfully and its construction safety was on merit. In 2006, there were no reports regarding accidental situation of around 7000 work force. The official opening was held on 14th March, 2008; and it opened for passengers on 27th March 2008.


Some of the successes and failures are discussed below:


There were many chances of high risks and uncertainties in this project; but many advanced strategies were utilized to avoid them. Its main success is completion of project on time estimated for it. It was a great challenge for the project manager to arrange or allocate the resources with consideration of time. The budget programs were designed with most effective techniques and the cost plans were delivered very successfully.

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There were perfect tunnel bores and designs; the technical and mechanical activities were performed with deep consideration; structure was prepared with modern approaches. The Mott MacDonald performed their assigned task very efficiently while working on road tunnel. The designing; construction; and fabrication were much enhanced. The SME (Single Model Environment) proved to be very beneficial for these operations. The most innovative application helped to have stability in its operations.

The quality level of providing the facilities to passengers was a great return on the high investment on the mega project; the shareholders achieved a great reward in it. There was a complete safety provision for the local inhabitant; passengers; and environment. The partnership with different parties was very successful which helped to remove the constraints. The exceptional plans were developed which helped to built up a control tower for serving all Heathrow. The integration was very strong to meet the project’s goals. There were proper risk and control management to avoid failures in project. There were enhanced system of privacy; the finger prints were taken while crossing security gates which protect against illegal actions. There were strong IT systems for achieving success.


There were fewer failure regarding staff training, baggage handling and massive IT spread out. The main failure was the unfamiliarity of staff of BA which created many disruptions. Eventually, this problem was sorted out by BAA and BA later on. Initially, the baggage system not worked properly, the BA was blamed for it to not have sufficient staff. According to the BBC, there were many problems faced by the terminal staff for car parking in garages. There were high investment in the IT; there were 180 IT suppliers and 163 systems, about 9000 devices; 2100 PC’s and a great mess of cables spread inside. According to British Airways CIO Paul, it is a smaller town filled with telecommunication system interrupting to build T5.


The mega projects always hold a risk of failure, however, the Terminal 5 Heathrow project was much successful and its phases were processed in proper sequence. The project management structure was very strong which helped to utilize the planning; managing and controlling methods effectively for completing the project.



Andrew Devies, 2009, From Iconic Design To Lost Luggage: Innovation At Heathrow Terminal 5

Barry Leonard, 2009, GAO Cost Estimating and Assessment Guide, pg. 140-145.

Flyvbjerg et al, 2003, mega projects and risk: an anatomy of ambition, Cambridge, Cambridge university press.

Harold Kerzner, 2009, Project Management: A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling. Pg. 418-450.

Kim Heldman, 2003, Project management jumpstart, pg. 18-25.

Michael Greer, 2002, The project manager’s partner: a step-by-step guide to project management, pg. 23-69.

R.C. Mishra, R C Mishra Tarun Soota, 2006, Modern Project Management, pg. 22-60.


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