Business leaders eagerly took the chance to get a sneak preview of Heathrow’s new terminal four months before it opens to the public.

On Wednesday (12) members of the chamber of commerce West London Business were able to experience a taste of what life in Terminal 2 will be like come June 4.

So great was the demand for places on the tour that 200 people applied to come which then had to be whittled down.

The £2.5 billion feat of modern engineering, which is to be known as The Queen’s Terminal, started construction in 2009 and has quietly been taking shape under the very noses of the passengers who will soon be using it.

Building work finished on time in November last year and ever since the various airlines (mostly members of the group known as the Star Alliance), shops and agencies who will call it home have been busy fitting their own sections out.

During the tour the members were able to marvel at the wave-form ceiling which is lit by LEDs that will continually change colour and allow the building to be suitably themed for days including St George’s Day, Breast Cancer Awareness Day and St Patrick’s Day.

They were shown the three waves of check-in methods arranged in four clearly marked Zones (A-D) which include 66 self-service kiosks, a bank of 60 bag drop points and a further 56 desks for premium and full service check in.

Unusually there are only four retail outlets land-side, a baggage shop, a cafe, a pub and a money exchange, this is intended to streamline the check-in process and encourage people to move to departure gates quickly as possible.

 

There is only one entrance to the security area to ease flow through the terminal and once inside a choice of 17 regular and four fast-track lanes before passengers arrival in the departures hall where 52 shops and 17 bars and restaurants await as well as clear directions to the 12 boarding gates in the main terminal and 14 gates in the satellite 2B terminal reached via an underground tunnel.

They were also told how returning passengers who come into the terminal from a landed plane are able to make it through Immigration and baggage claim and out through customs while staying on one level.

The walk itself apparently takes no more than three minutes.

The Terminal 2 project is all about statistics and almost all of them are staggeringly impressive, as is its evolution in general.

For starters; despite the whole construction taking place in the heart of one of the world’s busiest airports, not a single journey was disrupted as a result.

Also it is officially the largest privately funded project on its kind thanks to the fact not one penny of public money has been used to build it.

A total of 35,000 have played some part in the building phase, and a further 24,000 will work there once it is fully operational.

In order to avoid the problems such as lost baggage experienced by Terminal 5 when it opened five years ago, 180 trials involving 14,000 volunteers from the local community will be or have been carried out.

On top of these, 1,700 training sessions for staff will take place so that when the first United airlines flight docks at 5.55am on June 4 everyone will be as prepared as they possibly can be.

Business leaders from West London got a chance for a sneak-peak of the new Terminal 2 at Heathrow Airport
WLB chief executive Frank Wingate with John Holland-Kaye and Brian Woodhead from Heathrow at the new Terminal 2
 

John Holland-Kaye, development director for Heathrow, paid tribute to the work so far in his speech to WLB during a refreshment break in the middle of what will be the main departures area.

He said: “Building Terminal 2 while keeping the airport running is a bit like trying to change tyres during a lap of Silverstone racing circuit.

“So tight were the restraints that when we dug the foundations and put in the various bits of equipment, we were only metres from the London Underground tunnels!”

He went on to explain how, unlike Terminal 5, Terminal 2 intends to celebrate Britishness in all its glory.

Not only will there be a London black cab in the middle of the departures hall, but Fullers brewery will be operating a pub on site named London’s Pride in honour of its most famous beer.

Also unlike Terminal 5, which opened all in one go, the opening of T2 is going to be staggered over several weeks. To start United will be the only occupant and then every few weeks another cluster of airlines will move across from either T1 or T3 until eventually all 22 Star Alliance members as well as Aer Lingus, Germanwings and Virgin Atlantic Little Red are in place.

This will then allow the eventual demolition of T1 and T3 to allow Terminal 2 to expand further to occupy the space they once held.

Crowning the whole achievement is the vast artwork known as Slipstream which dominates the ceiling of the area between the front entrance to the terminal and the car park.

Sculptor Richard Wilson won a competition in 2010 to design the £2 million piece which is 70 metres long and weighs 77 tonnes.

WLB chief executive Frank Wingate thanked everyone for coming and paid tribute to Heathrow’s involvement with the group saying: “They were there at our beginning and have been great supporters of ours and in turn we have lobbied and supported the expansion of the airport as it is vital for us that growth takes place in West London.”