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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 May, 2003, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK
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The documentary-style drama, The Day Britain Stopped, charts a series of events that brings the nation's transport to a standstill.

The day finishes with an horrific air collision just outside Heathrow, and thousands of motorists trapped in their cars in freezing conditions.

Read a selection of your comments on the programme and your views on the state of Britain's transport system.

The programme was broadcast on BBC Two on Tuesday, 13 May, 2003 at 2100 BST.


The likelihood of transport gridlock and a simultaneous air disaster must be small, and I didn't think the programme makers convincingly argued their case for cause and effect. Furthermore, those people who think that having an integrated transport system would have made a shred of difference to the chaos in January are deluding themselves.
Alan, UK

As an operations manager for a shipping company I know all too well the stress involved with transportation, however your programme gave me a completely new view. Maybe now our Government will sit up and realise the consequences of their failure to act. Congratulations.
Paul Sawyer, United Kingdom.

Any aviation professional could point to the numerous inaccuracies
Jim Tobin, UK

To those who have derided 'The Day Britain Stopped' as sensationalist, I say: just look at the chaos that was our traffic system on the day a single lorry got stuck in the Blackwall Tunnel entrance. Every individual event in the programme could happen.
Richard, England

The use of British Airways as one of the airlines involved in the crash has implications on how they will be perceived by potential customers. I couldn't get that tailfin out of my mind, and I only hope that it won't subconsciously affect my decision and others on flying with the airline, which has an excellent safety reputation.
Navdeep Gill, UK

We hear on the news the other day that some big-wig has stated that each of the three main airports around London need another runway. Just think of all the extra air traffic that will generate. Have these people no sense? Another runway, yes, but make it at another airport at least 100 miles north to take the pressure off the capital.
Geoff Lee, Scotland

Have you never heard of a helicopter air ambulance to carry road victims to hospital? But I guess that might have spoiled your "story".
Peter Ross, UK

Any aviation professional could point to the numerous inaccuracies and omissions present in this program. To any members of the public reading this, don't worry, the scenario the BBC painted regarding the plane crash couldn't happen in the manner shown in this 'docudrama'.
Jim Tobin, UK

I am dismayed at the dismissive comments from those in the air industry
D Viner, UK

The only (and draconian) answer to the whole problem is to force people off the roads. The amounts of non-essential traffic today is awful. If necessary, punitive taxation would be necessary, because we will all, eventually, end up getting nowhere. None of the above will ever happen, because no government will ever grasp so thorny a nettle.
A C Warner, UK

I am also dismayed and somewhat annoyed at the dismissive comments from those in the air industry. Having also followed the problems reported about the new NATS centre over the last few months, and the way this has also been dismissed as scaremongering by the 'higher ups' in NATS, I find I cannot believe anything that they now say.
D Viner, UK

People are too often in denial about building roads - but we definately need new motorways now as a quick fix, but also longer term planning to sort out the public transport system, before this country becomes an international joke.
Chris, UK

What concerns me is that were such an incident to happen in reality the authorities would certainly create scapegoats, such as Nicola, while the true culprits, of which there are many, would remain anonymous.
Martin, UK

One very good point was raised with reference to the M25 - the fact that there is no one single police force in overall control. The Government should immediately look into this matter and introduce a single emergency services provider, to include police, fire, ambulance and breakdown recovery for the entire M25 circuit.
Gary Lineker, United Kingdom

It would be hard to suggest that there is absolutely no possibility of a collision
Daniel, UK

The problem of traffic congestion is not confined to the south as anyone who has sat in traffic going into or out of Edinburgh will be aware.
Nicola, Scotland

As a former air traffic controller I would like to take issue with the other controllers on this site who've said such a collision is impossible. That's a silly attitude to take. Yes, the program is full of mistakes, yes we're the best in the world, but no that doesn't mean we can ever say never.
Johnny, UK

Surely it is time for the government to scrap the idea of extra runways in already built-up areas, get away from their London-centric views and build a new airport, with better transport links, away from residential areas, somewhere else in the country, or expand other airports.
Chris, UK

The events in the film shouldn't be considered as a definitive sequence of events, but rather what could happen. Although the crash is unlikely, it would be hard to suggest that there is absolutely no possibility of a collision.

I don't approve of scaremongering, but we cannot ignore the fact that near misses and accidents do happen.
Daniel, UK

I am a pilot with a major airline at Heathrow. The mid air collision would not have hapened as you portrayed it, as the standard missed approach procedure would have turned the aircraft on the go-around away from the one departing.

Likewise, some of the comments regarding fuel and diversion policy were very misleading. We always plan to have enough fuel to divert from our planned destination and still land at our diversion with thirty minutes reserve fuel remaining.
James, UK

Planes and trains are driven by professionals with strict training and discipline
Mark Norbury, UK

The Plane crash could not have occured as depicted because: 1) Bilbao involves a turn to the south, away from the aircraft going around.

2)TCAS (radar) on both aircraft would have given warning and avoidance to both pilots.

3)The CSA pilots would have requested a speed reduction if not ordered by ATC - you cannot land an aircraft at initial approach speeds.
Marianne Kerr, UK

It's worth recalling how many people die or are seriously injured on our roads on a weekly basis because of dangerous motorists, compared with the few in trains and planes. Yet train and plane crashes receive much more publicity.

Planes and trains are driven by professionals with strict training and discipline. Our lives are much safer in their hands.
Mark Norbury, UK

Gridlock in south east England happens all the time, mostly when I'm driving to work at Heathrow where I fly 747s for BA. As for the crash, it shows what would happen if aircraft were flown remotely from the ground without having experienced, thinking pilots at the controls. I don't know anyone who would happily fly down finals at 210 knots.
Robert Foulkes, England

The way the mess of our transport systems in the UK was portrayed was excellent. As cabin crew I am aware of the crowded skies situation at Heathrow, but how easily a major incident like the one portrayed could happen really struck home.The format of the drama was excellent and I had to keep reminding myself it wasnt real. Well done to the programme makers.
sandra baird, scotland

People have to be willing to sacrifice the 'right' to travel to reduce car and air travel
Paul Phillips, UK

The skies in the south east are congested. Some airlines fly with bare minimum fuel and might not be able to divert, and if the M25 did close it would cause problems as shown. Since privitisation rail travel is not as safe as it should be. People should wake up and smell the roses.
Andrew, UK

The travelling public, who are unaware of the minutiae of the work of air traffic controllers, were left with an impression that we're bordering on the edge of near total breakdown which is quite wrong. I think this programme should never have been shown.
James, UK

The point which most people seem to have missed is that the air traffic control system was so stretched because people couldn't get to work due to the gridlock. Anyone who lives in the south east of the country and sits in jams like this every single working day will testify that this is a very real possibility.
Lisa, UK

A powerful and plausible programme, it also clearly shows that governments can not solve this. People have to be willing to sacrifice the 'right' to travel where they want, when they want and reduce car and air travel.
Paul Phillips, UK

Anyone who thinks this programme was sensational clearly doesn't use public transport in Britain. A combination of events can wreak havoc. The programme was not wild sensationalism. It demonstrated that the UK desperately needs to develop a robust and integrated public transport system for rail, air and road travel.
Richard, London, UK

As a British Airways pilot I know the Heathrow missed approach procedures were changed approximately two years ago to avoid the event you describe.

It should also be made clear that British airline pilots consider UK air traffic control to be the best in the world.
Paul Hughes, UK

The conclusion that travel chaos would likely lead to a mid-air collision is speculative at best
Doug , England

The programme was very cleverly made. The use of real life television journalists added to the realism. However, the programme was a work of fiction and must be seen in that light. I work in the aviation industry and the conclusion that travel chaos would likely lead to a mid-air collision is speculative at best.

Aircraft nowadays are fitted with TCAS (a collision avoidance system). This has significantly reduced the number of mid-air collisions. Safety is paramount in the eyes of the airlines and I would be the first to jump up and down and complain if I thought my airline (or any other) was not 100% commited to the highest standards of safety.

UK air traffic control is the best in the world. I know, because I operate Jumbo Jets all over the world. None of the UK airlines are complacent!
Doug , England

A good, powerful programme that looked real enough to make everything seem more plausible. While the air traffic control system was an easy target, I feel it is a fair one and living under a Heathrow flight path myself air safety is an important issue for me.

Indeed, on paper, the sequence of events may seem ludicrous - but some of them have already happened, and in particular the air crash. The jet stream related crash in Queens, New York, would have seemed equally unlikely - but then it happened.
A. White, England

The scary thing about the programme was that it could so easily come true
Jon, UK

I can't believe the number of comments on this topic accusing the BBC of scare-mongering. I travel the M25 on the Essex/Herts stretch most days by motorcycle and there isn't a single morning or evening goes by without an incident of some sort on one carriageway or other.

As a motorcyclist the ability to cut through stationary traffic also makes you realise how many shunts there are - you get past one (which has probably been cleared by the time someone in a car gets to where it occurred) and five miles on you find another one.

Also, one of these days a "near miss" will turn into a hit unless something is done about our overcrowded skies.
Chaz Cozens, UK

I feel that the programme was an excellent way showing how bad the country's transport
Saraj Ull-Din, England

The scary thing about the programme was that it could so easily come true. Whose idea was it to increase the capacity of airports in the South East?!
Jon, UK

As a pilot I have every confidence in UK air traffic procedures, and in our airline safety and pilot training, which have the highest standards in the world. Our airports and airlines do not deserve an equal ranking with our admittedly ramshackle rail and road system, which was implied by the programme.
Andrew, UK

This comes at a bad time for the industry which is already under pressure from other factors. UK air traffic control is the best in the world, but there are still people out there who will lose confidence in them due to this programme.
James MacLaren, England

It is time to build a central airport where the population is not so dense
Sandy, UK

I ask people to consider if they would have derided the portrayal of the gridlock before the events of January 31? There are procedures that are designed to prevent accidents in every area of the aviation industry, but 'accidents' still happen.

Just because there is a procedure to avoid a particular set of circumstances does not mean, with the introduction of human frailty, perhaps compounded with other, unusual, events, that they will always be followed.
Rix, United Kingdom

I don't agree that showing this programme was inappropriate in the wake of September 11th. That was a tragic act of terrorism and last night's programme was a fictional repesentation of a series of accidents.

I agree that there are implications for an already suffering air industry, but if this programme has highlighted significant problems within the industry itself, what is more important - public safety or profit?
Matthew Verrill, UK

As one of the unfortunates trapped in my car overnight in January in Cambridgeshire, I can truly say that a lot of the issues raised are not merely fiction but an inevitable part of the overloaded and badly monitored British transport system.
Krystyna Dillon, UK

I can even see this happening here in the Netherlands
Tom de Roos, Netherlands

A well presented programme. The combination of incidents is worryingly plausible. I am concerned to see comments on this page from air traffic controllers and pilots who are happy to dismiss the possibility of an incident similar to that portrayed.

There have been enough actual instances of mistakes leading to disaster or near-disaster to lend a plausibility to this happening. Their comments display an alarming lack of recognition of the dangers of over-stressed and tired humans making mistakes.
Danny C, UK

A very thought provoking piece bearing in mind I live under the approach to Stansted, and under flight paths for Heathrow. Unfortunately, what we saw last night is a very real possiblility, and one that will no doubt be ignored by politicians when deciding where airports should be put.

No extra runways should be built for existing airports, and it is time to build a central airport where the population is not so dense - with direct rail and road links.
Sandy, UK

At the end of January this year there were very similar problems in the London area with gridlocked roads due to heavy snowfalls just before rush hour. The senario played out in the programme was not far from fact other than, thankfully, the air crash.

On 31 January the emergency and support services were unable to get through. How close this programme came to be true is very sobering.
Suzanne , United Kingdom

I cannot believe that a departing aircraft would be turned into the path of a possible missed approach
Caroline, England

I don't know how realistic it is for British viewers, but I can even see this happening here in the Netherlands. It was a very real "documentary", that puts the spotlight on the air traffic problem, not only for the UK, but for the rest of Europe as well.
Tom de Roos, Netherlands

I thought this was a well thought out, well researched and emotive - if fictional - portrayal of something which is not completely unthinkable. This is not sci-fi, this is possible, no matter how terrible it may seem.
Lee Cassidy, UK.

This is scaremongering. I cannot believe that in twin runway operations a departing aircraft would be turned into the path of a possible missed approach, whether the controller was aware of it or not.
Caroline, England

Working as air crew for a major carrier, the disaster shown perhaps worries us more than a terrorist attack or any other air catastrophe. It has happened elsewhere, it is well known to have almost happened in the UK, and in my opinion it is only a matter of time before it does.

Some may say the program is far-fetched and such coincidences would never happen, but some of the biggest disasters have been the result of a litany of small coincidences that seem unbelievable, but yet they were there and caused the deaths of innocent people.
Rowan, UK

As an air traffic controller I feel very dismayed as you continue your sensationalist and inaccurate portrayal of the air traffic service provided in this country. Safety is always our first priority in our planning and implementation of those plans
David, UK

Anything which encourages thought and debate of an issue has to be a good thing
Kim Tuckwell, Cornwall, England

This was some of the most ridiculous scaremongering I have ever seen. They might as well have had alien invasions blocking the roads for the sense of realism it portrayed.
Toby Jones, UK

I am disgusted at the timing of such a show whilst we are still reeling from the events of September 11, the slow down in the economy, the Iraq war and terrorism. It was nothing but scare mongering. I can not see the purpose of such a show. A pure documentary on the dangers of air travel would be far more informative as opposed to a docusoap. Are you trying to tempt fate?
Philip Humphreys, England

Living near Gatwick, as we do, we understand the difficulties only too well. The roads are blocked to Redhill Hospital every time the motorway is closed due to frequent accidents.
Stevie Hobbs, uk

This was so thought-provoking. It is possible to see how easily it could happen. I disagree that it is dumbing down. Anything which encourages thought and debate of an issue has to be a good thing.
Kim Tuckwell, Cornwall, England

I'm a civilian motorway police controller and tonight's programme was very realistic and featured incidents that have happened on our patch in the last 12 months. We also have the same problems of resourcing that the air traffic control have, including the lengths of shifts.

I fear for safety because keeping concentration for 50% extra per shift will lead to mistakes.
Dave Bird, UK

This programme should be shown to the government over and over again. Get a proper public transport system set up before we have situations like tonight's film happening, not once, but on a regular basis. Stop widening the roads! That is not the way to improve the situation.
Lorna Jordan, UK

Something must be done about the under-investment in Britain's transport policy
Katie Webber, England

The programme was very dangerous by tempting fate, whilst scaremongering. The airline industry has suffered enough recently. They need support, not more scaring of the public.
Mike, UK

I lost my father in a mid-air collision when I was a child. Whilst it was not easy to watch this incredibly realistic portrayal of such a disaster tonight, I must say that I hope it goes some way to preventing this type of disaster in the future.
T Roberts, Newbury, England

Something must be done about the under-investment in Britain's transport policy otherwise this incident might just happen, and the death toll will be much higher.
Katie Webber, England

Fantastic. Very moving and a real wake-up call to everyone who could make a difference. This could happen tomorrow, let's hope the right people have been watching.
Dominic Walker, UK

This programme was irresponsible, frightening and unnecessary.
Mrs Kefford-Stone, England

Working in air traffic control, this is not something I can envisage ever happening. There are procedures and some common sense initiatives which could have averted the disaster you portrayed. You have cast air traffic control in a very ill light. This will damage an industry which is still reeling in the wake of 9/11.
Simon, UK

Very real. So believable in fact I thought the first part was based upon the gridlock that happened recently. The government is throwing sand at an incoming tide with more roads, more runways and promoting consumerism without thought. A good example of how we all have a responsibility in this and having a car isn't a god-given right.
David Hall, England

As a pilot myself, I see no particular concern related to a missed approach
James Nicholas, UK

For years we have been listening as politicians have promised an integrated transport system. With nothing in the pipeline yet, is it not time to take a hint from Europe and consider a TGV style rail system?

Then feed it into a revitalised regional rail and bus system, with the services conecting. This, I'm sure, would go a long way to raising the morale of the nation and making Britain a more appealing enviroment in which to live.
David Campbell, U.K.

What really matters is that people focus on addressing the individual issues that are raised and thereby prevent the overall disaster, rather than simply getting excited or appalled by the dramatic overall effect.

If we bite off the achievable chunks, we can prevent the big picture catastrophe from happening. The real message to me is that by making localised improvements we could significantly reduce the likelihood of a series of individual disasters translating into a national catastrophe.
Dave, Kent, UK

As a pilot myself, I see no particular concern related to a missed approach. The procedure for a missed approach from any instrument runway is published and the pilot simply follows the charted procedure unless otherwise directed by air traffic control.

So even in the event of communications failure, the aircraft will execute a published missed approach and go off into a holding pattern. I firmly believe that this kind of program will raise more unfounded concerns than realistic ones.
James Nicholas, UK

I work at Heathrow and I can imagine this happening. We need to implement something and get all the emergency services together to prevent this sort of thing happening in real life. The program was well made and quite, if not very, believable. I just hope that this never happens.
Neil, England

I have to disagree that this is dumbing down. This programme will raise important questions and hopefully provoke constructive debate.

It was not as as easy to dismiss post nuclear disaster features such as the excellent film "Threads" as sensationalist. In the case of these films, the danger was very real and was merely interpreted by film makers. I hope this one works.
Ryan, England

I just hope the BBC isn't tempting fate......
Paul, UK

A few years ago in Leeds snow fell quickly just before rush hour. There was complete gridlock with people sleeping in their workplaces or having awful tales of spending hours driving home.

Others complained that they abandoned their cars having waited 2 hours to leave their office car parks. Having seen that, it is possible to believe that the events in this drama could be true.
George Davidson, Slough

This is the worst kind of sensationalism and indicates a further decline in the approach taken by the BBC to serious issues. More dumbing down! This treats the viewers as idiots who cannot understand the issues and are not prepared to listen to informed debate.
Peter Sutcliffe, UK

The scary thing is, I can see it happening.
Martyn, England



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