Letter: All under control

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The Independent Culture
Sir: While the new Swanwick air traffic control system will indeed become operational later than the Civil Aviation Authority's original, over-ambitious timetable, this is certainly not a project where costs are out of control ("Air traffic system is pounds 87m over budget", 17 September). On the contrary, this project,which will give Britain the most advanced air-traffic system in the world, is firmly within budget.

The information provided by National Air Traffic Services to MPs on the Transport Select Committee has been consistent, clear and full. The committee was told last year by NATS that the total budget for Swanwick was pounds 474.9 m, split between capital and revenue costs. The capital element amounted to pounds 350.7m. The contractors, Lockheed Martin, have only been paid more than the original fixed price for the computer system because of changes we have asked for, and as a result of taking up costed options in the contract. For the record, the overall cost of the project - approved by the Government - was put at pounds 362m in 1991. Given that the budget in today's prices is pounds 475m, you will appreciate that the Swanwick project is in fact an example of excellent cost control.

Nigel Horne, one of Britain's most respected computer experts, recently investigated progress at Swanwick and found the project to be sound, well advanced and technically under control.

BILL SEMPLE

National Air Traffic Services

London WC2

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