Why can’t we get airport design right in the UK?

As someone who has been in customer service for over 45 years I get puzzled by the failure to do some simple things that could make a huge difference. I’ve just travelled through Heathrow’s Terminal 3, but these remarks aren’t confined to that building, more to what I see as a series of blindingly obvious failures.
In the UK we do not have wall to wall sunshine; it does, frequently, rain with sleet and snow thrown in at times. So why do the buses from the car parks drop off their passengers in the open? It cannot be beyond the budget to provide this basic piece of comfort for travellers can it? OK, you do get dropped off close to the canopy, but still far enough away to get soaked if it is pouring.

And then there are the buses. They’re reasonably new, buy why not with exits on either side so that they could drop you off on the side that the terminal is? You’re OK at T3, but at T1 you have to get off opposite the terminal and cross the road. Apart from increasing the risk of being run down using the pedestrian crossing disrupts the traffic flow and how daft is that?

And talking of traffic, when they redeveloped T1 what on earth possessed them to adopt that routing? You come in from the car park and your bus drives almost to the corner of T2 before swinging up and away round the ramp to face the way it came to drop off. Then it goes all the way round the loop back down to about where it emerged from the tunnel before having to cross all the traffic, drive back past T1 and round to T2 (OK, I know T2 is closed for the moment , but they still designed this system on purpose). How many extra miles are driven in the course of negotiating this piece of stupidity? Green credentials? I don’t think so. And how much is it costing?

You may sense anger here, and you are right if you do. There was a furore recently when one of the Pope’s aids said something about arriving in a third world country on the visit to the UK. Well if they flew in through our flagship airport I could believe that they were right. Heathrow Terminal 5 isn’t too bad in many ways, but some of the signage is poor and I wouldn’t rate it better than many of the other airports I’ve arrived and departed from around the world. Yes it does have some great technology, nice places to eat and shop, but it has nothing to make me want to use it again in a hurry (it’s main airline  user has little to recommend it either, but that is not the airport’s fault).

I find it hard to accept that we make such fundamental errors in design, but we do it over and over again. As a Facilities Manager, one of my great frustrations with any new building was that I knew that I would spend most of the first 12 months making the place usable. Soft Landings might help to a degree and I hope that it does because the general principles were something my teams were doing 20 years and more ago because it was the only way that we could hit the ground running.

The best airport that I have travelled through is Tampa International and I love passing through there, but it is the only major airport of the many that I have used that I would say that I enjoy the experience of using.

So there, I’ve had a good rant and will get off my soap box (until next time).

1 Comment

Filed under cars planes and trains, random rants

One response to “Why can’t we get airport design right in the UK?

  1. Taffia

    I agree with you John – such poor planning. And supermarket car parks are in the same category – so poorly designed it is a wonder that there aren’t more accidents. Waitrose deliberately set out to attract wealthy customers, many of whom have large cars – yet the car parking spaces appear to be designed for an Astra or Clio.

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