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RSHP denies blame for T5 lighting fiasco

Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (RSHP) has rejected claims that it is to blame for an embarrassing maintenance furore at Heathrow’s Terminal 5

It has been confirmed that a team of tightrope walkers had been called in to replace ‘blown’ high-level downlights, hundreds of which had not been changed since the £4.5 billion terminal opened five years ago.

However, the practice said the need for high-wire specialists to replace downlights was a maintenance issue and not a design flaw: ‘The airport were presented with a number of options, which were discussed with them and their maintenance team, and they chose this design.’

A RSHP spokesman said the practice had been in discussion with the airport’s ‘world class maintenance team’ for many years leading up to the terminal’s opening in 2008 and both sides had always been aware of the issue.

The airport’s owners, Heathrow Airport Holdings (HAH) confirmed that it was taking responsibility for changing the bulbs but an HAH spokesman claimed all minutes and information relating to discussion with RSHP about the maintenance of the lights had been lost.

‘It was seven or eight years ago that this decision was made and there is no information as to what was agreed at that time,’ said the spokesman.

RSHP also strongly rejected claims in The Daily Mail that 120,000 downlighter bulbs would need to be changed at a height of 40m. ‘Their number is completely fabricated; it is nothing like that and more like under a 1,000 in the roof,’ said the spokesman.

The issue came to light when an email obtained by news website Exaro suggested that Terminal 5’s owners had been unable to change a single high-level light bulb since the building opened. In some areas of the concourse 60 per cent of the downlighters are blown and in need for replacement.

The email was sent to staff by Vicki O’Brien, head of Heathrow customer service at British Airways

O’Brien wrote: ‘As many of you will have seen recently, the departures concourse has been becoming darker than normal in the late afternoons/evenings, as well as in the early mornings.

‘The reason for the poor light is that 60 per cent of the downlighters have failed, and until recently Heathrow had no  viable way to replace them.

‘Various things have been investigated in the past five years, but for a number of reasons none of these were practical or safe.

‘The good news is that Heathrow has now identified a safe and robust way to replace all the lightbulbs, and this is high-level rope work carried out by a specialist company.’

The HAH spokesman added: ‘The current lighting on the Terminal 5 concourse is being replaced with environmentally friendly LED bulbs that will last for up to five years. Contingency lighting has been used on the concourse while a viable and safe solution of replacing the lights was being agreed.’

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