Heathrow was the London 2012 Olympic Airport. About 45,000 additional passengers (athletes, support, etc) were expected to use the airport during the summer peak. Babcock, as operator of the baggage systems was tasked with making this seamless and to solve the problems of disproportionate volumes per athlete and the scale of the out of gauge luggage. We project managed the design, planning and delivery of new operations to support the Olympics and Paralympics.


To facilitate the traffic of Olympic specific baggage at Heathrow during the 2012 games


Established in 1891, Babcock is the UK’s leading engineering support services organisation earning revenues of circa £3bn during 2013. Babcock operates in a variety of sectors including; defence, energy, telecommunications, transport, airports and education.

Babcock Airports Division is responsible for Heathrow Airport’s airport-based baggage handling systems. Babcock uses its unrivalled baggage processing and operational knowledge, together with its specialist engineering skills in automated handling and control systems development, to deliver the optimum through-life performance in terms of cost, efficiency and reliability.

They employ over 1,000 skilled personnel with experience in baggage system design, control systems development, operations, maintenance and general airport-based baggage services. These unique skills and experience ensure that Babcock is recognised as an industry sector leader in the provision of through-life integrated solutions to airport baggage handling and management requirements.

During the summer of 2012 they had to manage significantly higher volumes and changes in traffic types coming through the airport before, during and after the London 2012 Olympics.

To put the operations into context, here are some facts and figures:

  • The Olympic Period was 65 days from 9th July until 11th September
  • Several records set in July for the number of arriving passengers
  • The team handled 15,000 bags in 100 lorries over 4 separate days
  • Games Terminal handled circa 7,500 passengers over 3 days
Issues / Challenges
  • Forecasted record baggage volumes(up to a predicted 250,000 bags over a 24 hour period compared with a usual average of 125,000)
  • To deliver the solutions on time – Olympic Opening and Closing Ceremonies were immovable dates
  • Identifying, selecting and training resources given security requirements
  • Logistics – time taken to get between Heathrow and the Olympic Village
Aims of the Project

We were engaged to facilitate the review, design and documentation of the processes required to deliver the temporary baggage systems required in Terminal 3 and Terminal 5 to meet the extra capacity requirements.  We ensured that this activity was properly organised so that it did not impact the on-going operations that Babcock were already delivering for the airport.

  • To support BAA deliver successful, seamless passenger and baggage movements over the London Olympic and Para-Olympic activity period (July to September 2012). Specifically:
    • Design and devise a programme for a temporary baggage system. Once in place, test, operate and maintain it
    • Design, plan and implement measures to ensure that the existing baggage systems and operations will be able to cope
    • Design and operate the inter terminal transport of Olympic bags
    • Design management processes for command and control and supervising temporary resources brought in for the Olympic period
  • To ensure that this activity is properly organised so that it does not impact the on-going operations that Babcock delivers for BAA.
Measures implemented

The following measures were identified and implemented:

  • A scheme design and programme for a temporary baggage system covering:
    • Baggage processing at the Games Terminal (Portal)
    • T3 & T5 HBS
    • Baggage support at additional Check-in desks (T3 & T5)
    • Vehicle (coach & bag) & driver logistics assessment to support the solutions
    • Run at rate trials
  • Measures to ensure Product Resilience in the following areas:
    • System Improvement Solutions – weakness elimination or mitigation
    • Maintenance Planning – to both pre-plan & avoid the critical period including provision of spares
    • Olympic Baggage Movements – inter terminal movements
    • Resource Planning – and requests for assistance
    • Support of Contingency Reviews – supporting BAA with contingency plans
    • Command and Control – integration of Olympic baggage operations into existing operations
  • Programme deliverables as follows:
    • Programme Board and Team, PID, Plan including sign offs, Risk Log, Assumption Log, Decision Log, Issue and  Action Log and other programme documents as appropriate

Working with a large group of operational workstream leaders the project was a great success with a number of airport records being broken including the highest number of passengers through the airport in one month without a decline in service.

  • Managed record numbers of arriving passengers during July
  • Handled 15,000 bags in 100 Lorries over 4 separate days
  • Handled circa 7,500 passengers over 3 days
  • Each success accumulated to prevent both Babcock and BAA from receiving any negative press within the media which was the overall aim of the project
Learning points

We helped the team take some of the learning points from the project to continually improve the baggage handling service in particular in the processing of arriving passengers and in resource scheduling.

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