The rundown, overcrowded Terminal 2 at London’s sprawling Heathrow Airport is long gone, about to be replaced by a spacious new building built to handle 20 million passengers each year.
The new facility was hailed as a cornerstone of Heathrow’s revitalization when shown to reporters on Wednesday ahead of the June 4 opening.
Lead architect Luis Vidal said its extensive use of natural light and high quality acoustics should make it a calm space for travellers accustomed to high anxiety at dark, noisy airports.
“If you make it intuitive, pleasant, joyful, you can take away a completely different memory of the terminal,” he told The Associated Press.
“You can never completely erase your memory of the former Terminal 2, because it was a dreadful experience. This will be completely the opposite. This will be a destination. People will want to come here.”
Part of the rebranding strategy calls for the new Terminal 2 to be known as The Queen’s Terminal. The plan has Queen Elizabeth’s blessing – and she plans to officially open the facility, just as she did the original Terminal 2 in 1955.
The STG2.5 billion pound ($A4.55 billion) building, in conjunction with the relatively new Terminal 5 that opened in 2008, gives Heathrow two modern terminals. The major construction is part of an STG11 billion pound refurbishment designed to keep Heathrow competitive with other major European hubs including Amsterdam, Frankfurt and Paris.
Heathrow officials say they are still pushing to build a controversial third runway, which is opposed by London Mayor Boris Johnson and influential environmental groups.
John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s development director, said the new terminal’s completion shows Heathrow has complied with the last Labour government’s directive that the airport should improve without growing.
“Our challenge now is to make the case to expand,” he said, admitting that getting permission would be “politically complex”.
Holland-Kaye said private money was available to pay for a third runway, which would greatly add to Heathrow’s capacity.
He also claimed the new Terminal 2 would reduce the “stacking” problem over Heathrow that often causes delays as planes await permission to land.