London

Heathrow airport triples snow clearance fleet

Heathrow airport has tripled the number of snow clearance vehicles to tackle severe winter weather.

Operator BAA also has three times as many staff ready to clear snow compared with last year.

Thousands of passengers were left stranded at the airport as 4,000 flights were cancelled over five days for heavy snow before Christmas.

But BAA said it now has 185 snow clearance vehicles and has 468 staff per shift, compared to 117 last year.

The operator said it has invested £32.4m so far to tackle severe weather.

BAA had been criticised following last year's disruptions and a report accused the operator of a breakdown in communication and lack of "preparedness" for the bad weather.

After the publication of the Winter Resilience Enquiry Report, BAA promised to invest £50m to avoid facing disruptions on a similar scale.

Announcing its "winter resilience programme", the airports operator said it has introduced a new "reservist" role whereby up to 950 staff will be deployed to the terminals to help passengers during disruption.

'More to do'

BAA also has plans for a new airport control centre and improvements to passenger information.

But Normand Boivin, chief operating officer of Heathrow, said: "There is more still to do.

"There will be lots of attention on Heathrow the next time it snows heavily.

"We won't be perfect but we will be better and we will improve each time we practise our new response plans.

"There will still be times when, for safety reasons, airports have to close during severe weather, but the work detailed in today's report means this should happen less often at Heathrow and the airport responds better when it does."

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