Edinburgh Airport Festival venue plan by tram stop

The interior of the new departure area now and, below, an artist's impression of the finished project. Picture: Scott Louden
The interior of the new departure area now and, below, an artist's impression of the finished project. Picture: Scott Louden
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AIRPORT tram passengers will be able to make use of a large public square which will host Festival performances and screenings of high-profile sporting events.

The St Andrew Square-style public space will feature a coffee shop and large TV screen similar to the one in Festival Square.

The arena will stage off-shoot Festival shows during the summer, giving visitors an early taste of what to expect from their stay in the city.

The pop-up venue is one of the highlights of an ambitious £25 million airport revamp which is quickly nearing completion.

The Evening News was exclusively invited to review progress so far yesterday – and it’s clear the new look is set to cement the hub’s standing as Scotland’s leading airport.

With record passenger numbers expected to pass through the revamped gateway, ease of passage, entertainment and creating a sophisticated modern vibe are at the centre of the design philosophy.

An airport spokesman said: “The plan is for a large public space to greet tram passengers. A large TV screen like Festival Square showing sporting events is a real possibility. The opportunity is also there to offer it as a Festival venue – it would be nice to bring the city nearer the airport.”

The near 6000sq m facility – equivalent to two Airbus 319 aeroplanes – will contain numerous shops, an airline business centre and offices.

Following customer feedback, a convenience store offering items such as milk and bread is to be opened for those who wish to pick up some essentials after jetting back in from their fortnight in the sun.

New state-of-the-art body scanners are to be installed to reduce the time passengers spend in the search area while self-service baggage drops will allow travellers to check in and drop their own bags at anytime ahead of a flight.

The new security hall, designed in cooperation with operations staff, will be devoid of any columns, allowing security officers unrestricted views while freeing up space for travellers. Another feature is a natural glow through skylights.

An end of passenger queues for security checks is also to become a reality under the bold terminal expansion plan.

Julie Matthews, head of security at Edinburgh Airport, said: “We’re committed to ensuring the safety of our passengers by continually reviewing and improving our security process.

“With our brand-new security hall scheduled to open later this year, we’re investing in fantastic state-of-the-art technology, which will allow us to enter the next generation of airport security.

“The old security hall was quite dark with no natural light – this is the complete opposite. The new streamlined system should also do away with queueing removing a lot of stress from the airport experience.”

The new structure, labelled “the box”, is situated in what was previously the coach park and work is due to be completed in July and operational by September.

A bridge linking the new terminal to the multi-storey car park will also be built, with plans also under way to create a new walk-through store on the site of the current security hall – scheduled to open in summer 2015.

Edinburgh West MSP Colin Keir, who also toured the new look development, said it was “exciting” to see such investment.

He said: “The growth of Edinburgh Airport brings more business and greater investment into Edinburgh as a whole. Here in the west of the city you have the airport, RBS, the Royal Highland and Agricultural Society of Scotland and Edinburgh Park all bunched together, home to some of the most influential companies not just in Scotland but Europe.

“Expansion and growth such as this is therefore essential. It’s also good to see further jobs being created at the airport, adding to the already considerable number of people in the city employed at the airport.”

The expansion is part of a five-year £150m investment programme and represents the single biggest investment since GIP took ownership in 2012.

Edinburgh Airport chief executive Gordon Dewar, pictured below, said: “This investment is the first of a number of developments that will build Edinburgh Airport’s profile around the world, helping us to compete more energetically with other UK airports and those in mainland Europe.”

The expansion also represents a step-change in the airport’s overall business approach from an 80/20 aero/retail split to 50/50.

It is hoped that increased revenue through retail and parking will allow for more flexibility when offering deals to attract larger airlines such as recently announced new carriers Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines.

A large part of the £150m investment is therefore to be spent on areas such as building more car parking and adding at least five new parking stands for aircraft.

City economy convener Cllr Frank Ross said: “Edinburgh is in a fiercely competitive global market and a growing, successful Edinburgh Airport is absolutely crucial for keeping us well connected. While the city has weathered the recession very well we need more capacity to continue attracting the tourists, students, investors and business visitors who help to create jobs for Edinburgh residents.

“From May, travellers will also have an attractive and efficient route straight to the heart of the Capital thanks to the tram service with its stop close to the terminal building.”

This was echoed by David Birrell, chief executive of Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce, who welcomed the fact the project is creating 100 much-needed construction jobs.

He added: “A thriving airport is of critical importance to Edinburgh as Scotland’s capital, as its financial and cultural hub, and as a gateway to the nation as a whole. The city is already benefiting from the knock-on effect of a successful airport.”

Edinburgh Airport is now the fifth busiest airport in the UK and the third biggest city in terms of passenger numbers, following London and Manchester.

In January, it was announced that almost 9.8 million people used the airport last year – an increase of 6.3 per cent on the previous year and the busiest of any Scottish airport.

Bosses have set their sights on another bumper year in 2014 as they head towards the ten million passenger milestone, thanks to the Year of Homecoming, the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup taking place in Scotland and the trams starting to run in May.

Transport Minister Keith Brown said: “This exciting package of investment is yet another major boost for our transport infrastructure ahead of 2014, which promises to be one of the most exciting periods in our history when we host the Commonwealth Games and the Ryder Cup and stage a second Year of Homecoming.

“It aims to improve service levels for passengers travelling through Edinburgh Airport. International interest in Scotland has never been greater and it is important we showcase our best to the world from the moment visitors arrive at the airport and throughout their stay.”

Factsheets to help autistic and disabled

THE airport will become the first in Scotland to launch a step-by-step guide to navigating the terminal – for passengers with additional needs.

Working closely with Scottish Autism, the airport’s corporate charity for 2014, and disability equality group Wideaware, the airport has developed a series of factsheets, each tailor-made to focus on parts of the airport journey some disabled or autistic people may find stressful, such as checking in and going through security.

Launched to coincide with World Autism Awareness Day on Wednesday, the factsheets will be supported by hands-on initiatives including advance walk-throughs for passengers who may be on the autism spectrum, in a wheelchair, or even someone who may not have been in an airport before.

Text versions of the factsheets are also available for passengers with hearing impairments, while Braille options also provided, and work is under way to develop a wider support package for wheelchair users.

The airport is also working with airlines, such as easyJet and British Airways, to help develop courses for people afraid of flying.