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BBC Scotland's Asad Ahmad
"Edinburgh Airport is highlighted by Peter Reed"
 real 28k

Monday, 27 March, 2000, 13:42 GMT
Expert sounds air sell-off caution
Air traffic controllers
Controllers have spoken out against the sale plan
An air traffic control expert has warned that privatising the service would create "a Railtrack in the sky".

The claim has been made by Peter Reed, former economics manager at the Civil Aviation Authority, in a document published on the internet.

He believes commercial pressures are already compromising the service and privatisation would makes things worse.

'Railtrack in the sky'

The UK Government wants to sell off 51% of National Air Traffic Services (Nats), including Scotland's centre at Prestwick, to generate money for new investments.

But Nats is "inherently unsuited to commercial operation", according to Mr Reed, who believes the plan would create a "Railtrack in the sky".

He is worried that full radar cover at Edinburgh Airport is already being restricted to daytime hours and there is no radar advisory service provided from the control centre at Prestwick.


Campaign website
Opponents are asked to register on the site
Mr Reed said: "Privatisation will create pressures tending to reduce operational standards for commercial profit, threaten public service functions, distort and reduce long-term investment, undervalue user time-savings and safety and increase costs to air travellers."

His views have been published on the website of the independent left-wing think-tank, Catalyst.

Mr Reed, who advises airlines and has served on an expert panel of the International Air Transport Association, said the effects of commercial pressures were already being felt throughout the UK air transport industry.

Views rejected

He cited "overloading of controllers, pressure on supervisors to approve engineering work they haven't seen, and a refusal on grounds of cost to provide radar cover where pilots clearly judge this to be necessary".

Mr Reed believes privatisation has little or no support within the air transport industry or from the travelling public.

He added that pilots were firmly opposed, as were "the men and women who carry the responsibility of guiding pilots through crowded airspace".


Air traffic control screen
The skies are becoming more crowded
A spokesman for NATS refuted Mr Reed's views. "This is a completely distorted view of what the public private partnership will do," he said.

"Mr Reed's analysis is way off beam and wrong on every count."

"The plans will maintain high safety standards by guaranteeing the investment NATS needs to meet the relentless demand for air travel.

'No reduction' in safety

"There can be no reduction in safety standards because the law forbids it.

"The airlines are unanimously in favour of it and British Airways and Virgin have said the private public partnership will not compromise safety."

He added that the provision of radar systems was a matter for individual airports and the privatisation plans would not affect this.

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See also:

17 Feb 00 | Scotland
Air traffic centre project 'safe'
17 Feb 00 | UK
Revolution in the air
16 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Selling off the skies
17 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Prescott's latest privatisation row
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