BAA to spend £50m to tackle snow

Airports operator BAA said it would invest £50M in better winter defences after a report criticised its response to the snow-induced chaos at London's Heathrow airport last year.

An inquiry into BAA's handling of last year's big freeze, which closed runways in the week before Christmas, said BAA had to prove it can keep Heathrow running in extreme circumstances.

The inquiry, conducted by David Begg, a BAA non-executive director, made 14 recommendations regarding BAA's future readiness to cope with severe weather.

Begg said BAA needs to simplify Heathrow's crisis management procedures and have ample snow-clearing equipment.

He also recommended that BAA strike a deal with airlines operating at Heathrow on how they deal with heavy snow and better co-ordinate their operational decisions.

BAA said its planned investment included the purchase of new equipment, increased staff resources and training. It said it would look to improve its crisis management processes and the communication between airlines and passengers.

BAA, owned by Grupo Ferrovial, was widely criticised over its response to the big freeze, which left Heathrow part closed for several days in the run up to Christmas, hitting the travel plans of thousands.

"We are now putting together a comprehensive action plan to implement all 14 Begg recommendations. Our aim is to better serve passengers in normal times and at times of disruption, whatever the cause," said BAA Chief Executive Colin Matthews.

BAA said it had secured agreement from the chief executives of British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, British Midland International, the air traffic controller NATS and the Civil Aviation Authority to establish a Heathrow partnership which meets regularly to discuss operational issues.