View Full Version : Liddell Presses NATS and Airlines To Complete 60m ATC Centre at PIK

The Guvnor
14th Jan 2002, 17:44
From today's Scotsman:

[quote]Liddell to push for Prestwick go-ahead
Brian Gorman

SECRETARY of State for Scotland, Helen Liddell, will this week press the UK airline industry, crisis-ridden following 11 September, to go ahead with the completion of a new 60 million air traffic control system at Prestwick.

The project has been under threat since September, when terrorist atrocities in the US-led to a sharp downturn in transatlantic flights.

The National Air Traffic Control Service has asked the government to put the new centre, originally due for completion in 2007, on hold for up to two years.

The consortium of airlines that owns 46 per cent of NATS has backed the decision. The seven airlines, British Airways, bmi british midland, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet, Monarch, Britannic and Airtours, have had to scale back operations drastically, as cash flow has dwindled.

The group acquired the stake last July when NATS was privatised. The government retains a 49 per cent stake, with the remaining 5 per cent in a trust for employees.

A spokesman for the investing consortium said: "NATS took the decision to postpone the project, as there was no need for it. We agreed with them, and so did the government."

However, Liddell is likely to ask NATS chief executive Richard Everitt to press ahead. She will argue that the UK needs the Prestwick facility as a back-up should other systems be targeted by terrorists. George Foulkes, the minister of state for Scotland, will also attend the meeting, to be held in Whitehall on Wednesday.

The government has given the go-ahead for the controversial Terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow. Liddell and Foulkes will argue the airline industry should respond by backing the new Prestwick centre, which will create 470 jobs.

NATS is already stretched, as it is due to open a new facility at Swanwick, Southampton on 27 January. The Prestwick postponement is part of a package of 200 million of savings NATS is making. It is also making some 20 per cent of its 5,500-strong workforce redundant.

Airlines and tour operators are still assessing the effects of 11 September. Shares in most companies in the sector plunged, with British Airways losing half its value in 2001. Last week, BAA, the UK’s biggest airport operator, said passenger numbers in December were down 6.4 per cent, compared with a year earlier. North Atlantic traffic fell 13 per cent, while other long-haul traffic fell 6 per cent.

Scottish airports bucked the trend. For 2001 as a whole, Edinburgh was the second-fastest growing airport in the UK, after London’s Stansted. Edinburgh passed the 6 million passenger mark, rising 9.9 per cent. Glasgow showed the next biggest rate of growth, with 4.7 per cent, and 7.2 million passengers.<hr></blockquote>