Alstom chief to take over at air traffic controller

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The Independent Online
The head of Britain's partly privatised air traffic control service was ousted yesterday in a boardroom coup engineered by the Government.</p>Richard Everitt, who had been chief executive of National Air Traffic Services since its creation three years ago, is leaving with a pay-off worth about £385,000.</p>He is being replaced by Paul Barron, the president of the engineering group Alstom UK, who has overseen a big programme of job cuts at the French-owned company over the past 12 months.</p>A Nats spokesman said: "The board decided it needed someone with a different skills set to take the business into a new era of modernisation, expansion and change."</p>Mr Everitt's departure follows the financial rescue of Nats last year. It was bailed out with a £130m cash injection from the Government and the airports operator BAA.</p>The company, which is owned 49 per cent by the Government and 42 per cent by a group of UK airlines led by British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, bmi and easyJet, hit a crisis within months of its formation after the September 11 attacks in 2001 prompted a worldwide downturn in air travel.</p>Nats was also plagued by operational difficulties at its new air traffic control centre at Swanick in Hampshire, with claims of staff shortages and computer problems.</p>Mr Everitt, a former director of policy and strategy at BAA, will depart in June. A spokesman said he did not know whether Mr Everitt had a new job to go to.</p>Mr Barron began his career as an apprentice engineer with Ruston Gas Turbines. At Nats he will oversee a £1bn investment programme, the centrepiece of which will be a new control room at Prestwick in Scotland due to open in 2008. The modernisation programme is designed to enable Nats to cope with an expected increase in the number of flights it handles from 2 million a year to 3 million over the next decade.</p>Chris Gibson-Smith, the chairman of Nats, said: "Paul has a strong reputation as a hands-on people manager who leads change through the involvement and support of the workforce."</p>Mr Barron, 53, also chairs the Department of Trade and Industry's Motorsport Development Board and is a senior figure in the employers' organisation, the CBI.</p>He will relocate from his home town of Lincoln to the new corporate headquarters which Nats is opening at Swanick in May.</p>As part of the rescue of Nats last year, BAA took a 4 per cent stake in the business. The remaining 5 per cent is held by the workforce. Most of the airlines involved in Nats have written down the value of their stakes. </p>