Select Committee on Transport Twelfth Report

2  Training and testing

Staff training

8.  We found that the programme of training for many workers had been inadequate. There were high levels of staff participation in, and completion of the training courses.[13] However, speaking on behalf of British Airways employees, Mr Iggy Vaid argued that the training was insufficient. He told us that:

"People were taken to a hotel and shown some sort of film or slides and told this was what it looked like. They were then given familiarisation training for three days to cover an area as big as Hyde Park. That was not sufficient at all. For that reason people were totally confused. Two days out of the three were devoted to putting them into a coach to show them x, y and z, and where to enter and exit and so on, but what was missing was hands on training as to where the spurs were, where the bags would come in and so on. For baggage in particular it was still a building site. You cannot start to train people there unless you have on a hard hat and all the rest of it. Therefore, the only time available to show these people around was the very last few weeks."[14]

9.  British Airways accepted that the training had not been sufficiently thorough, and gave a partial explanation in its first written submission: "In hindsight, we should not have absorbed the continuing building delays by compromising the time needed to complete the full testing and familiarisation process as planned. We should have delayed the move on 27 March to allow the full programme to be completed".[15] However, on 7 May, Willie Walsh, British Airways' Chief Executive, gave us a slightly more nuanced account, when he told us that:

"The idea of just delaying things by a month was not necessarily an option that was available to us. I think, in reality, what we would have been considering was a delay of a season, which is from March to the end of October—that is the summer operating season—and, in effect, to delay the move for a full six months until the winter scheduling season because this is very complex […] my regret is that we did compromise on the testing programme […] we knew this was a risk, it was a calculated risk and a risk that I agreed to take."[16]

10.  The cost to British Airways of delaying would have been "significantly greater than the cost […] incurred as a result of the problems that we encountered in the first few days."[17]

Public trials

11.  Before T5 was opened, BAA held a series of public trials which were intended to identify and iron out any flaws in the operation of T5. According to data published by BAA, 15,000 volunteers took part in 66 trials creating 50,000 'passenger profiles', which were intended to "replicate all possible travel scenarios".[18] According to BAA, 400,000 bags of different size, shape and weight were put through the system before Terminal 5 opened.[19]

12.  BAA told us in written evidence that:

"Approximately 15,000 members of the public and all terminal stakeholders participated in our proving trials programme. BA worked jointly with us for over two years on the programme. The trials were designed to stress-test the building to expose issues and problems and many improvements to the terminal were introduced as a result of feedback gained from trial passengers and staff.

"We made numerous improvements as a result of feedback from proving trials. As an example of just some of the changes: we introduced a more flexible approach to security channels; improved way-finding throughout the terminal; altered seating layouts at gates; installed faster software at ticket presentation to speed up wait times; and altered messaging on self-service kiosks to make it clearer for passengers."[20]

13.  BAA also told us that "despite the vigorous tests that took place, it was inevitable that once real passenger bags were introduced into the system, there would be bedding-in issues".[21] We were interested in the distinction between a real passenger bag and a test bag, and followed it up in oral evidence. Colin Matthews said "It may have been that the baggage we were testing was too uniform […] Maybe the reality of the baggage that people put into the system was more diverse than our tests represented."[22]

14.  The proving trials may have succeeded in identifying improvements and enabling members of the public to experience the new terminal but they failed in the ultimate objective of getting the system to a point where it worked well enough to cope with the opening successfully. The chaotic scenes of late March and early April could, and should have been avoided through better preparation and more effective joint working.

13   Q 116 Back

14   Q 193 Back

15   Ev 55 Back

16   Q 165 Back

17   Q 169 Back

18   "Terminal 5: Information", BAA, Back

19   Ev 45 Back

20   Correspondence from Colin Matthews Back

21   Ev 45 Back

22   Q 72 Back

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