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where most people linger – but then WSP Genivar associate director Richard Bylund has a rather different perspective on airports to most.

The arrivals hall is not a place DE-ICING



possible, in the shortest time possible, as cheaply as possible. That’s a hard combination.”

Indeed, as a specialist in baggage handling systems, it’s Bylund’s attention to detail that ensures that everyone else can grab their cases and stride for the “Nothing to declare” channel without a second thought.

“As a flyer, all you see is the weighing belt at check-in and the arrivals belt when you arrive,” he points out. “What most people don’t know is that there is a phenomenal amount of technology behind the scenes in order to get the luggage from one place to another. I always get stuck in the arrivals area when I get to a new airport – I want to see how the conveyor belts are functioning and all the planning around the belts. That’s something most people don’t look at it all.”

Though baggage handling is a largely unseen aspect of airports, it is a vitally important one. Reliability is essential, as is speed. “When you’re processing thousands of bags every hour, it is crucial that the plant is working, and working well,” says Bylund. “Airlines want turnaround times to be as short as possible, and airports want to check passengers in quickly so they can go through and spend money in the shops. The aim is to identify as many bags as

One of the most significant innovations Bylund foresees in the future is the use of RFID (radio-frequency identification) tags to track bags, rather than barcode stickers. This will make identifying and processing bags much quicker. They are also helping airport clients reduce their energy bills by switching to energy-efficient motors: “There are hundreds of motors in a baggage handling system, and the environmental issue is becoming much more important.”

WSP Genivar has been working on baggage handling projects for Stockholm Arlanda airport in Sweden for more than a decade, and is currently managing the installation of a completely new system for terminals 2 and 3. “It will be much more intelligent, with much higher capacity and a ‘tilt-tray sorting system’ which means handlers can sort baggage for a large number of flights at the same time.”

The aim is to identify as many bags as possible, in the

a hard combination Richard Bylund, WSP Genivar


shortest time possible, as cheaply as possible. That’s

The project began in 2011 and will not be fully operational until autumn 2014. Every baggage handling system is bespoke, manufactured to order and subjected to extensive testing. They are also built to last – up to 20 years for larger airports. “Our first step is to find out what the client’s needs will be over the life of the system, and help them to develop a masterplan for where they want to be in 20 years,” explains Bylund. “We might carry out study visits to other airports, then we draw up a technical specification and make early stage drawings, and arrange feasibility studies, before we go out to tender. It can take several years from the initial

design to handing over the system.”

An electrical engineer by training, Bylund has now designed baggage handling systems for large and small airports around the world. His first was in 2002. “When they asked me to help I thought, how hard could it be? But it turned out to be quite hard – it’s a very specialist area. I’ve been working with baggage handling systems almost full time ever since.”


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