Solve the problems, air traffic chiefs told : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Solve the problems, air traffic chiefs told

BY ARTHUR LEATHLEY AVIATION CORRESPONDENT AIR TRAFFIC control managers have been ordered to solve problems at the long-delayed Swanwick computer centre in time for next year's #500 million sale of the service.

Ministers are anxious that the first part-privatisation under Labour should not be jeopardised by lingering doubts among investors over the new computer centre, which has been delayed by six years. A year-long test programme has been set up to ensure that all problems at the centre, near Southampton, are ironed out before the trade sale, expected late next year.

The computer systems have caused huge delay problems, and MPs blame previous lax management for a failure to rectify fundamental flaws. The centre, whose costs have risen above #600 million, is due to open in the winter of 2001 to 2002. After tests are over, staff training will take at least a year.

Sir Roy McNulty, chairman of National Air Traffic Services, said that it was "purely coincidental" that the test programme will be completed before the trade sale.

However, a senior Whitehall official said: "This system has got to be gremlin-free before we go to market. Investors will want it to be whiter than white."

Ministers and senior air traffic control managers are about to prepare a detailed strategy for international expansion of the air traffic control service as part of moves to win the backing of investors. The Government is planning to sell a 51 per cent stake in the service, and will point to a huge potential market abroad as governments end state control of their airspace. Among companies that have shown interest are National Grid, GEC and Thomson, the French defence group.

The European Commission is pressing for greater simplification of the air traffic service across Europe, where flight delays have increased by 73 per cent in the year to this month. British flight delays attributable to air traffic control have reduced by 19 per cent in the same period.

Sir Roy said: "This summer has shown that the old model of national organisation and government control is just not hacking it. We have huge potential to expand and we will be the first to have the greater commercial freedom that is needed to invest in improvments."

Legislation to pave the way for the sell-off is due to be included in a wide-ranging Transport Bill in the coming Parliamentary session.

-- Homer Beanfang (, September 24, 1999


Hurry up an fix the system so we can sell it and fire your butts.

Good incentive program... learn that from the IRS?

-- Linda (, September 24, 1999.

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