On teething problems and political deadlines for Terminal 5

Well, well, well, another day, another fiasco.

T4 in Barajas in Madrid was also acclaimed by designers and even was worth the 2006 Stirling Prize for its designers: Richard Rogers Partnership. It was inaugurated on February 5, 2006 and if I recall well, that very Easter we had to spend 3h waiting for our luggage after landing from Cancun. State of the art baggage handling didn’t avoid some of our fellow travellers missing their connecting flights and trains out of Madrid.

March 27, 2008. The £4.3bn T5 at Heathrow has been, again, designed by the same team of architects at Richard Rogers partnership. We will never know what happened. If the architects want government work in the future, they will never let us know if they were forced to work under a political schedule (at travellers expense) or they were just really bad at project management.

You name your dream nightmare:

The computer cannot cope with the number of bags going through

Says a baggage worker,

Glitches on problems with “staff familiarisation”

British Airways blamed.

Another day, another flight cancelled, another suitcase lost, another traveller stressed out. But hey! Look at the building; it’s nice and spanking new, isn’t it? Well, who cares if it is not fit for purpose? I cannot believe that RR Partnership didn’t learn from the Barajas mistakes. I can only think that opening T5 was a political decision, they had a political deadline, and to hell with thousands of travellers suffering the consequences. As for the reputation of the architects… I do not think it gets them in trouble, after all, they have found a niche. They just have to bend to the next government’s decisions without moaning. You need to keep the engine going.

Hobbes, we are not here to comment on what has happened exactly. We take the time to ask WHY these kind of fiascos not only happen but keep repeating themselves in every country.

See, I am just on my early 30s, and my earliest memories aren’t those of airport systems collapsing under supposed ‘normal or subnormal’ conditions, bridges collapsing in the USA, oil tankers breaking up off-shore, utilities losing more water than they charge to their customers, or buildings collapsing under speed-train works (perhaps Chernobyl would be a notable exception).

It seems to me that chronic underinvestment and a profiteering is leaving us with an overstretched infrastructure in poor condition for the future. But again, who cares about the younger generations? And I am not supporting global warming pundits here.
As long as the middle classes could get to work and pay their taxes, governments were happy to pay the bill. Now that they are getting older and thinking of retirement, the 21st civilisation that the baby-boomers is doomed. We are left alone again.

These trophy civil constructions that supposedly replace or improve obsolete infrastructure (brand new Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok… old Don Muang airport re-opened on March 25th, 2007) remind me of those advertisements we see everyday, clean, professional, artistically perfect, fantastic script, great and beautiful actors but that, at the end of the day, exist only to praise, acclaim and applaud the work of the ad producers and directors, not the brand, product or service they are advertising.

As they saying goes, vísteme despacio, que tengo prisa. More haste, less speed.

Until tomorrow,



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