It's already old news that the opening of the 5th terminal at Heathrow airport was a disaster. However, was it such a big surprise. I mean, what could possibly go wrong:

"40 years in the planning. It was a 4.3bn [GBP] project boasting an IT system that could make Nasa envious"

"11 miles of conveyor belts controlled by an integrated network of 140 computer servers able to process 12,000 bags an hour"

"built on the back of 400,000 man-hours of software engineering"

"'We believe it to be the most advanced baggage system in the world.'"

View PDF graphic of the new baggage system.

It seems, just about everything that could go wrong did. A classic example of a system set up for cascading failure.

- Staff turning up for work could not park their cars.
- Then they struggled to find transfers into the terminal.
- Shortage of security staff meant baggage personnel had to wait in increasingly long queues to be vetted.
- People were having difficulty finding out where they were supposed to go [to work].

- Failure to get personnel into place on time in the cargo areas became manifest.
- Baggage backed up on the conveyor-belt system.

- Along with angry passengers, staff were becoming increasingly demoralised.
- 'There are 16 lifts and only one is working...'
- Drinking water was shipped in for the overstretched baggage teams, but the security staff refused to allow the bottles in.

- 68 flights had been grounded.
- [Passengers forced to] fly without their luggage as 5,000 bags lay stacked up on the underground conveyor belt system.
- BA had promised delays would be reduced to only 30 to 40 minutes.

In the glory of hindsight, I cannot resist the temptation to quote Antoine de Saint-Exupery:
"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to remove."