Travel chaos as Heathrow’s computer system crashes and staff forced to isolate
Passengers arriving at Heathrow are being forced to queue in lines as long as a quarter of a mile due to a combination of isolating staff and the repeated failure of a new £372m computer system.
An outbreak of coronavirus cases among Border Force staff meant that more than one in four of them was off work over the weekend, the Times reported.
In total, 80 of the 300 Border Force staff working at Heathrow were off over the weekend.
In addition, Border Crossing, the Home Office’s security database which checks passenger records against terrorism and criminal databases, is reported to have failed several times over recent days.
The software crashes have meant that Heathrow’s e-gates, which process thousands of passengers an hour, cannot be used – leaving all arrivals to be checked manually by Border Force officials.
The tech chaos comes only months after MPs criticised the project, saying there was “no proof” it could handle expected passenger volumes.
Arrivals into the UK are set to increase thanks to changes to the UK’s quarantine rules implemented this week, which allow double-jabbed EU and US travellers into the country without the need to self-isolate.
A Heathrow spokesman told the Daily Mail, which first reported the software failures: ‘Waiting times at the border have on occasion been unacceptable and we have called on the UK Government to address the problem as a matter of urgency.’
The problems at Heathrow are matched by arguments in Westminster on the future of the UK’s outward travel policy.
An amber ‘watchlist’ was set to be created for countries in danger of moving to the so-called red list, adding to the already existing five categories on the UK Government’s travel list.
Red list countries require travellers to quarantine in a hotel for 10 days and must pay £1,750 per adult.
Boris Johnson was expected to officially announce the watchlist later this week in a review of travel plans, but rebellion in the Tory ranks has seen the plans ditched.
The proposed watchlist came as reviews of the current traffic light travel system suggested it was too complicated.
Currently double jabbed UK travellers and children under 18 do not have to quarantine from amber list countries when they arrive into the UK.