Heathrow border staff ‘are ready’ for Olympics demand

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Heathrow is ready to cope with a huge surge in demand during the Olympics, despite recent concerns over queuing and security, officials have insisted.

Hundreds of extra fully trained border staff will be brought in, Marc Owen, Heathrow director of the UK Border Force, told a media briefing in London.

Managers also insisted that security measures would be proportionate.

Long queues at Britain’s busiest airport have been a source of concern for the government ahead of the Games.

Both the home secretary and immigration minister have pledged to deal with the delays.

Last week the government said it would bring forward the recruitment of 70 border staff by two years to prevent lengthy queues at Heathrow following the Olympics.

Heathrow has spent more than £20m on preparation, and managers insisted at Monday’s briefing that visitors would not suffer because of problems at the UK’s borders.

Nick Cole, head of Olympic and Paralympic planning at Heathrow, said that as the official host airport about 80% of all visitors would pass through in a “unique operational challenge”.

The busiest day will be 13 August, the day after the Olympics closing ceremony.

The airport expects to process 137,800 people leaving on that day, and 200,000 bags instead of an average of 150,000 on a normal day.

Mr Owen said he was confident the airport could cope during the period covering the Olympics and Paralympics.

E-passports
“We have got hundreds of staff. I am not going to go into a numbers game of how many staff we have got,” he said.

“We have got enough staff coming in to man our desks through the seven-week period.”

He said the airport would also be using the e-Passport gates at the airport to speed up the process.

He added that 16 mobile teams would be at the airport to carry out a variety of tasks, and there would also be new signage at border areas.

The airport is building a special terminal for athletes departing from the Olympics. It will have 31 check-in desks and seven security lanes.

When athletes leave the Olympic village, their bags will be collected on the night of the closing ceremony and checked in overnight, in an effort to lighten the load on the airport.

 

BBC © 2012

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