Heathrow boss speaks out on Olympic border fears

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The Independent Online

One of the top bosses at BAA, the owner of Heathrow, yesterday admitted he is "very concerned" about border control and security at the official Olympic airport this summer, warning: "It's the weakest link in the chain."

Immigration chiefs have called for hundreds more border staff to be recruited before the Games as passengers complain about lengthy queues at border control.

Now José Leo, BAA's finance director, has admitted BAA is worried its £20m Olympic investment – including a new temporary terminal for athletes – could be wasted if delays hit its reputation.

"Clearly we are all very concerned about it," he said. "We're working very hard with all the different stakeholders in the airport to get these things right.

"What we see today is not good. The only positive is that there seems to be a great deal of consciousness about the problem."

Passenger numbers at Heathrow rose 4.4 per cent to a first-quarter record of 15.7 million, with revenues at BAA (SP) Limited, which also owns Stansted, up 11.5 per cent to £537m – mainly due to fliers spending more in the airports' shops.

However, its pre-tax loss rose 9 per cent to £231.3m for the three months to April, mainly due to pension charges.

Asked when BAA (SP) would post a profit, Leo said: "I'm not going to commit. If we have swings in our market valuation, so what?

If the capital programme becomes more modest in three, four, or five years from now, profits will be very substantial. But we are not planning to ignore infrastructure or stop investing just to get the net profit up."

BAA on Monday agreed a $1.3bn deal to sell Edinburgh airport to Global Infrastructure Partners. The sale was forced on it by the Competition Commission last year.