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Babcock Olympics Resilience at Heathrow


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


During the summer of 2012 Babcock 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 (this document), 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.

Both the Olympic and Paralympic operations went well and learning from the Olympics was successfully transferred into Paralympic operations. Some of the processes in use during the period were unique but there is valuable learning that can be taken forward into normal operations.

The insight acquired during the project has highlighted the following:

  • The Olympic and Paralympic process demonstrated that the Babcock team is adaptable and can successfully deliver operations on the airport outside of our strict baggage operations and maintenance brief
  • The Olympics improved Babcock knowledge of the end to end baggage process and fostered relationships with all parties involved
  • The arrivals process works best when passengers clear passport control quickly and arrive at the carousels before their bags
  • Arrivals and resources team can work well together, demonstrated when matching volunteers to the required roles
  • Respect and compliance increase as senior team members make themselves present at ‘ground level’
  • The use of a ‘hit squad’ (members of staff on standby empowered to deal with issues as they arise) allows issues to be dealt with whilst minimising knock-on effects