Transport Secretary Mark Harper has insisted the UK has a reliable transport network, despite yesterday’s “network-wide” failure of the country’s Air Traffic Control (ATC) system and ongoing rail strikes.
Asked on the BBC this morning whether the disruption sweeping across aviation and rail showed that transport in the UK can’t be relied upon, Harper replied: “Well, I don’t accept that… on 99.9 per cent of occasions the air traffic system works perfectly well. Millions of people fly in and out of the United Kingdom without incident.”
While he acknowledged the scale of the error yesterday, he insisted “these things do not happen frequently”.
“We will look at the detail of what happened here and see whether there are any lessons to be learned,” he said.
Thousands of passengers were left stranded yesterday and facing delays of up to 12 hours after a technical issue at the National Air Traffic Service (NATS) resulted in the biggest ATC fault in nearly a decade.
Whilst the issue was eventually resolved late afternoon, airports and airlines including BA, Easyjet and Ryanair have been forced to disrupt hundreds of flights over the coming days.
Heathrow has said services will be “significantly disrupted” throughout today, while passengers are being told to check in with their airlines before heading to the terminal.
Brits have simultaneously been hit by fresh action on the rail network, as thousands of RMT members walked out over the weekend in an ongoing dispute over pay. ASLEF members have also announced an overtime ban in early September.
Harper said that yesterday’s flight disruption would take “some days to resolve”.
In a separate interview with GB News this morning, Harper said that an independent review would be launched into the incident, and that the government does not believe the disruption was caused by a cybersecurity incident.
“The Civil Aviation Authority will be putting together a report in the coming days, which obviously I will take a look at to see whether there are lessons to learn for the future, to see whether we can reduce the impact of this again,” he said.