Union warns of dangers in delay to Scottish air traffic control centre


Union warns of dangers in delay to Scottish air traffic control centre

The UK will struggle to cope with the low cost airline boom, Prospect has warned. On the day that Ryanair announced a 38% increase in passenger traffic and record profits, Prospect national secretary David Luxton said he was extremely concerned to hear that the delayed Scottish air traffic control centre still has no firm start date.

"The new Scottish centre is destined to control about 80% of the UK’s airspace. The explosion of low cost carriers like Ryanair and easyJet could be held back by the lack of investment in this vital aviation project.

"Not only are we talking about increased services from Scottish airports but those in northern England and northern Ireland will also be affected," he said at a meeting with air traffic controllers at the Scottish and Oceanic control centres in Prestwick.

Indications are that building work on the new ATC centre, which is due to be on line in 2008/9, will not start for another 18 months due to the cash predicament of NATS. The vital selection process for the sophisticated computer equipment to run the centre is also running late.

Luxton said: "The history of these projects makes the stated operational date of 2008 look very optimistic. Our members are telling us that there are already increasing pressures and delays affecting their operations in 2002. What will happen in another six or seven years?

"The irony is stark. NATS has to provide a safe air traffic control system for the whole of the UK and hundreds of airlines but at the same time it has no money to invest in future growth."

Prospect has written to Alistair Darling and requested a meeting to discuss the state of NATS’ finances and press for an immediate start to the project.