The long-delayed new UK en-route air traffic control centre (ATCC) at Swanwick has been fully integrated into the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) network, having completed the "technical handover" phase on 19 December.

Controller training at the centre starts on 2 January, and Swanwick will take over en-route ATC tasks from the West Drayton ATCC on 20 January 2002.

Swanwick will go operational six years late, some of the delay created by the need to upgrade software specifications as demands on air traffic management services have increased.

Last year, NATS handled more than two million flights in its airspace for the first time. Around 360 controllers - 60 more than employed at the West Drayton site - will work at Swanwick.

NATS chief executive Colin Chisholme says: "When fully up and running in January 2002, Swanwick's extra capacity and the skills of our operational teams will improve safety and reduce delays for our customers. There is more to do before we reach our ultimate goal, but Swanwick is now 'live' and the countdown to 2002 can begin."

Source: Flight International