Commons Gate

The Opening of Heathrow Terminal 5 (HC 543-i)

Transport Committee 7 May 2008

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Evidence given by
3.00 BAA Sir Nigel Rudd, Chairman, Colin Matthews, Chief Executive Officer
4.00 British Airways, Willie Walsh, Chief Executive.

Q17 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): Mr Matthews, you seem rather complacent. You are the head of a very, very large company. You are telling us that, first, you wanted to concentrate all your resources on getting it right. You give the impression that there were questions you could have asked people before you came in here, but you did not want to know the answer to them, so you could not say.

Mr Matthews: No.

Q18 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): On the question Mr Efford has asked, even if you were not personally aware of the answer, I would have thought you would have been briefed on it before you came to this Select Committee. Are you hiding anything?

Mr Matthews: I am not hiding anything. Rather than take the time of the operational and technical experts to brief me for this appearance or, indeed, to spend time on allocating exactly what went wrong and when, I concluded - and that is my responsibility - that my responsibility was, first, to fix issues for passengers and, second, to advance the discussions with British Airways as quickly as we reasonably could on the question of the migration of the rest of the flights because that is what impacts all of the airlines at Heathrow. That was my judgement.

Q19 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): I will say it again: you are a very large organisation, a fully-owned organisation, that made a fool out of this country by the opening of Terminal 5. Sir Nigel, are you happy with the approach that your Chief Executive has taken?

Sir Nigel Rudd: Yes, I support him entirely. On the first morning obviously the problems started to arise. I discussed it with the Chief Executive and I agreed with the strategy of doing all in our power to make it work. Clearly, after three or four days it was working pretty well, and I think that was the right strategy to pursue. Clearly, I do not want to give you any sense of complacency here. I, as Chairman, am bitterly disappointed about the physical opening of Terminal 5. It is a great disappointment to me and we have apologised. My view of the matter is that there were a number of problems that might have been foreseen but none that would have led to the stopping of the opening of the terminal. All these things conspired in the first few hours to work against us. In an airport as complex and as new as Terminal 5, that was a cumulative effect. But this is for later. As the Chief Executive has said, we will obviously make the inquiry and we will come back to you, but we did not think at the time it was worth spending any time at all in starting to blame each other, either through the press or anything else, but just get on with the job of looking after the passengers. That was my instruction to the Chief Executive.

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

The full transcript may be read here.

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On behalf of Eric Martlew, 3 Chatsworth Square Carlisle Cumbria CA1 1HB