Heralded as the first stage in the regeneration of Heathrow Airport leading up to the 2012 Olympics, the construction of Terminal 5 had bucked the trend. In a world where most mega infrastructure projects fail, the T5 project was not only on schedule, it was on budget. At its official opening by the Queen it was being trumpeted as the 21st century gateway to Britain. But multiple problems emerged on the opening day culminating in the cancellation of numerous flights and thousands of lost bags requiring manual sorting before being returned to their owners. What should have been an occasion for celebration turned into a national disaster. Using accounts drawn from the media, from a House of Commons Transport Committee report and material from research into the construction phase of the project, this paper examines the episode via two theoretical lenses – normal accident theory and high reliability theory.
- Normal accident theory
- High reliability theory