National Air Traffic Services (Nats) is facing further slippage in its timetable for bringing the Swanwick air traffic control centre into operation.
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Computer Weekly learnt of the delay in the crucial technical hand-over of the Swanwick site as the Government this week faced a revolt by backbench MPs over the partial sell-off of Nats.
A Nats spokesperson told Computer Weekly, "Swanwick continues to remain on track for operational delivery in winter 2001/2 and we remain confident that technical hand-over - the point where we can declare the project is ready to provide an operational service - will be achieved at the end of this year."
For over a year, as they prepared their public-private partnership proposals, the Government and Nats management insisted that Swanwick was on track and that all deadlines had been met.
Yet Nats and the Government have long insisted that technical hand-over would take place on October 2000.
A Nats memorandum to the House of Commons transport select committee last year stated, "Since the revised plan was established in October 1998, all milestones have been met, and planned activities remain on schedule."
A Government response to the Commons transport select committee report on Nats said, "Technical hand-over is due in October 2000, with conversion training for air traffic controllers beginning in January 2001."
Nats managers repeated the October 2000 deadline at a meeting with the Guild of Airtraffic Controllers just three months ago. Nats said that despite the delay in the technical hand-over it is still on schedule to bring Swanwick into operation in the winter of 2001-2.
However the Guild of Airtraffic Controllers is questioning whether this will be a full or partial transfer of operations to Swanwick, and whether Nats will have enough controllers to train on the new system and provide adequate services this summer.