BRITISH AIRWAYS has ditched earlier plans for the phased development of a new London Heathrow cargo hub, instead unveiling plans to spend £150 million on developing a new highly automated hub.

The centre is due to open in 1998 with a capacity to handle around 800,000t of cargo each year. It will be based in an almost fully-automated, five-level building, which will cover only half the ground space originally planned.

Integrated-design consultant for the project WS Atkins says that the computerised cargo-handling systems will enable 4,500 consignments an hour to be processed, which more than quadruples today's peak handling capacity.

In 1994 BA World Cargo handled 607,000t of cargo, with the Heathrow centre processing about 500,000t. The new system will eventually allow Heathrow to handle up to 1 million tonnes a year.

The airside face of the building is constructed using "stealth" techniques, consisting of several sections angled downward to reduce radar returns and prevent secondary reflections of instrument-landing-system beams.

General manager Pat Pearse says that the centre's workforce will be smaller than today's, despite the capacity increase.

Source: Flight International