12 December 2022, etc.venues Monument, London
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Business secretary Vince Cable has blamed “ancient” computer systems for an IT glitch that caused heavy disruption to UK airports last week.
He said the UK’s national air traffic service (NATS) has been “skimping on large scale investment” and it had been “penny wise and pound foolish”.
Speaking to the BBC’s Andrew Marr show Cable said high-levels of investment is needed over the next five years to avoid a repeat of Friday’s problems.
He said NATS, under financial pressure, had decided to "forego capital investment" for many years.
"We have to maintain a high level of capital investment," he added.
His comments follow the incident at the NATS control centre in Swanwick which caused the majority of London airspace to be severely restricted. This had knock-on effects at other UK airports including Birmingham and Manchester and caused disruption to thousands of passengers.
NATS CEO Richard Deakin said the glitch was caused by a single faulty line of code in one computer system.
"The challenge is that we have around 50 different systems at Swanwick and around four million lines of code. This particular glitch was buried in one of those four million lines of code,” he told The BBC.
"We haven't seen that particular issue before," he added
There have been calls from MPs for directors and senior leaders at NATS, which is part-owned by the tax-payer, to resign if they are found to be blamed for Friday’s shutdown.
Analysis of NATS accounts by The Daily Telegraphtoday shows Deakin’s pay jumped 46 per cent to £1.05 million in the year to March 2014 including a £272,000 performance-related bonus and £325,000 for a long term incentive plan.
Nigel Fotherby, NATS’ finance director, saw his total pay increase by 39 per cent to £546,000, while operations director Martin Rolfe received £404,000.
NATS has announced it will launch an independent inquiry into the disruption. The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will, in consultation with NATS, appoint an independent chair of the panel which will consist of NATS technical experts, a board member from the CAA and independent experts on information technology, air traffic management and operational resilience.
The review is expected to consult airlines and consumer groups and will include looking at the root cause of the problem, NATS’ handling of the incident and measures to avoid a repeat incident.