14 MARCH 2008

A new phase in British air transport began today as the Queen opened the brand new Terminal 5 building at Heathrow Airport. The monarch, dressed in a mahogany red jacket, was the guest of honour at a ceremony attended by 800 people, including hundreds of airport and construction workers.

After being welcomed to the new £5.4 billion development by a team of officials, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh listened to a specially commissioned piece of music performed by a 30-strong choir.

The Queen commented on the "bright, airy space and clean, efficient layout", as she declared the new development ready for business. "It gives me great pleasure to open Terminal 5 - this 21st Century gateway to Britain and, to us, the wider world," she continued.

It's not the first time the 81-year-old royal has been called upon to inaugurate a new building at Heathrow. In 1955 she opened the airport's first terminal, which is now Terminal 2.

Work began on the latest terminal in 2002. It required diverting two rivers, putting up what is claimed to be the UK's largest free-standing building and tunnelling 13km for rail and baggage links. Some 60,000 people have worked to complete the project, which features 50 new aircraft stands and starts welcoming passengers on March 27.

Photo: ©
The British monarch was shown around the airport's brand new Terminal 5 building before attending a ceremony to mark its completionPhoto: © Getty Images
Photo: ©
Some 60,000 people have worked to build the project, which features 50 new aircraft stands and will open for business on March 27Photo: © Getty Images
Photo: ©
Its creators say it will simplify the process of checking in for flights with online check-in, fast baggage dropping facilities and state-of-the-art luggage handlingPhoto: © Getty Images