Air-traffic sale 'risks Railtrack of the skies'

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The Independent Online

Ministers were yesterday warned by unions and senior Labour MPs, including a former Transport Minister, to abandon plans to sell off Britain's air traffic control system, or risk "a Railtrack of the skies."

Ministers were yesterday warned by unions and senior Labour MPs, including a former Transport Minister, to abandon plans to sell off Britain's air traffic control system, or risk "a Railtrack of the skies."

The union which represents air traffic controllers, said there were serious concerns about the safety implications of the Government's £500m part privatisation.

"This proposal is not popular with the public because they have real fears about the safety of a privatised NATS," said Terry Adams, of the Public and Commercial Services Union. "Following the recent collapse of public confidence in Railtrack, the public do not want a Railtrack of the skies."

The Public and Commercial Services Union joined Labour MPs in urging the government to rethink its policy following Thursday's defeat in the House of Lords over its sell-off plans.

Tory and Liberal Democrat peers formed a coalition to vote down the government during the transport bill and for a delay in the part privatisation until after the next election.

Many Labour MPs and peers have concerns about the policy and around 70 Labour peers failed to turn out to vote.

Gavin Strang, the former transport minister, said that the Government should rethink its proposals following the House of Lords' "important and significant defeat" of Government plans for the sell off of 75 per cent of the equity of air traffic control.

"UK air traffic control is the best in the world. That's what the international airline pilots tell us and that's why the British Airline Pilots' Association are against the privatisation, as are the unions representing the air traffic controllers, the engineers and the support staff," he said.

He was joined by Gwyneth Dunwoody, Labour chairman of the House of Commons Transport Select Committee, said the sell off was "a rather pointless idea," and it would be "wise" to drop the air traffic control sell off from the Transport bill.

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