Air traffic centre hits more delays

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AN INDEPENDENT report has criticised the managers of the planned pounds 475m air traffic control centre at Swanwick, Dorset, and warned that the project, already six years late, could fall even further behind schedule.

The report, commissioned by the Government, found management methods used by National Air Traffic Services (Nats), a subsidiary of the state- owned Civil Aviation Authority, were "a long way from best procurement practice". It also found Nats' initial target opening date of 1996 centre was "totally unrealistic".

The CAA admitted mistakes had been made but said the report showed Swanwick was now "on track" and the air traffic control was a safe operation. Nats has encountered a series of problems with the computer software and is now likely to open in the winter of 2001-2002.

In its report, the Defence Evaluation and Research Agency (Dera) recommended measures to strengthen the management and warned that if they were not implemented, there was "a strong possibility that further slippage, into at least 2002, will occur".

Dera warned that air traffic delays "can be expected to increase" shortly before and after the centre becomes operational but added that there was no reason why safety standards should be compromised.

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