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if it's friday night, it must be... - The Villages

Date: 2008-03-28 22:58
Subject: if it's friday night, it must be...
Security: Public
Location:the utility room in the sky
Music:seth lakeman
Well. It's Friday night and here I am, no LOLcats, no weird and furry and cute, no totally superfluous meme. But I do have...
Terminal Five at Heathrow!
By now, of course, you've all either read about this or seen it on the news. I was going to put this in Schadenfreude Corner, but I don't actually take any pleasure from this cock-up. T5 (as it's known, probably in anticipation of a future Terminator movie - Terminator 5 - The Year We Spent Waiting For Our Bags At Heathrow) cost a smidge over four billion quid, took five years and an insane amount of man-hours - and some deaths - to build. It's been tested for the last few months with weighted bags running on the luggage conveyors. It was opened by the Queen earlier this month, on which occasion Sir Nigel Rudd, chairman of the British Airports Authority, said, "Terminal 5 marks the start of a new beginning for Heathrow, for BAA and for our millions of passengers. It is by any standard a triumph of ambition, commitment and collaboration. It will breathe new life into Heathrow, allowing us to continue our transformation of the rest of the airport and will put Heathrow and BAA back where they belong - at the leading edge of global travel."
It does not work.
I have yet to see a statement in Sir Nigel's ringing and lyrical tones about the events of the past couple of days.
Now, I have to tell you that very little of this comes as a complete surprise to me. Our recent record of public works is not edifying. The Millennium Bridge from Tate Modern to the North Bank of the Thames swayed alarmingly when *gasp* large numbers of people wanted to walk across it on the occasion of its opening. Wembley was late and just a fraction over budget. The Dome was a catastrophe, from start to finish.
But. The Bridge had dampers fitted to it and now it's a big tourist attraction. The Dome has been reborn as a music venue and, from friends who have been there, it's one of the better ones in the Capital. Wembley? The last time I saw a match there the pitch looked as if the larger part of a Panzer division had been driving up and down it before the game, but apart from initial concerns about food franchises and the toilets and escalators not working, I've heard suspiciously few criticisms lately, which leads me to suspect that the teething troubles have been ironed out.
The moral we can infer from these examples is that we are really crap at large public works, but given time to tweak them we'll get them right. Which, no doubt, will happen at Terminal Five. By the end of next month, it'll probably be running just fine.
And now I want to offer you this thought. In a little over four years London will host the Olympic Games. The Olympic Games run for just a fortnight. There will be no time for tweaking; we'll have to get it right first time.
Am I optimistic? Let's just say I have space booked in Schadenfreude Corner for the 2012 Olympics. I hope I won't need it. But I have space booked.
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User: calcinations
Date: 2008-03-29 10:29 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
They've actually been testing it? THe impression I got was that they left it all to the last minute. Radio 4 on Friday afternoon had several causes of the trouble.
1) they gave the checin staff temporary system checking type log ins, which then didn't allow them to actually book anyone in, so they had to wait a few hours for IT to sort out the proper working log ins. This of course should have been done several days earlier.
2) insufficient staff car parking, so they are late to work after trying to find a space. this is somehow not surprising, I can understand how getting the precisely correct number of spaces is way down on the agenda, and if it hadn't been for the other things it wouldn't have mattered so much.
I think there was something else but I cannot recall it.

I think the main issue with large public works is that as soon as politicians are involved anywhere (HOlyrood? The Dome? etc etc) things get fouled up, because the politicians as standard do not understand project management. Now, I am not an expert on project management, but I've learnt a lot over the past 18 months, and I reackon I know more than most politicians.
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User: hutch0
Date: 2008-03-29 15:16 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
They have indeed been testing it. The publicity before the fiasco boasted, "Extensive and repeated testing of the system by BA has taken place for six months to make sure it is in full operation readiness when T5 opens for business." I heard somewhere they'd been running the conveyors eighteen hours a day to make sure they worked.
What they hadn't apparently thought of, as you say, is staff not being able to log-in, workers not being able to find anywhere to park, it taking longer than expected to do security checks on arriving staff, and some other stuff.
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