Source: The Daily Telegraph
Author: Jean-Paul Ford Rojas
Britain’s Border Force is still missing its own targets on cutting immigration queues at Heathrow just weeks ahead of the start of the Olympic Games, figures showed last night.
Extra staff were deployed to the airport to cut waiting times after the lengthy queues were branded a national embarrassment but an initial improvement has stalled and in some cases performance compared to the previous month has even got slightly worse.
The Border Force has to get non-EU passport holders through immigration at Heathrow within 45 minutes for 95% of the time.
But it failed to meet that target at three of the four terminals in June at the airport, which is expected to see an extra 650,000 passengers pass through during the Games.
Terminal 4 – where passengers reported queues of up to two-and-a-half hours last Friday – performed worst, getting only 90.0% of passengers through in three-quarters of an hour or less, 5% below the target, and worse than the 91.4% achieved in May.
The non-EU target was not reached at either T5 (91.5%) or T3 (92.8%). Both also showed small declines from May. It was achieved at T1 at 99.3%. Terminal 2 is currently being re-built
A target for EU passport holders, who must wait no longer than 25 minutes for 95% of the time, was met at all four terminals.
More immigration staff will be available from July 15, ahead of the start of the Olympics.
Last night’s figures were released by airport operator BAA.
A spokesman said: “Immigration waiting times for passengers during peak periods at Heathrow recently have been unacceptably long and the Home Office should be delivering a good experience for regular passengers as well as for Olympic visitors.”
Earlier this week, House of Commons Home Affairs Committee chairman Keith Vaz said he was “extremely concerned” that Heathrow passengers “continue to wait an inexcusable amount of time to clear immigration”.
A Border Force spokesman said yesterday: “The vast majority of passengers pass through immigration control quickly, as shown by the fact that we hit all of our targets for EU passengers and for over 90% of non-EU passengers.
“There is always room for improvement, which is why we deploy additional staff at peak times.
“We will not compromise border security but are working with airlines to keep delays to a minimum, particularly ahead of the busy Olympic period.”