Supplementary memorandum by National Air
Traffic Services (NAT 6C)
Thank you for the letter of 18 June setting
out the additional information that the Sub-Committee wished to
have following the further evidence session held on 11 June.
Taking the issues in the order set out in your
letter, the additional information requested by the Sub-Committee
is as follows:
ATC CHARGES COMPARISON
The en route unit rates of the Eurocontrol states
for 2002 are set out below. These are the national rates which,
in the case of the UK, include the charges levied by the CAA for
meteorological services and the services of the Directorate of
Airspace Policy, and the UK's contribution to Eurocontrol running
costs. NATS charges for 2002 were capped at RPI3 per cent
and the NATS element of the national rate for 2002 is euro 73.61.
Average charges in Europe increased by 12 per cent.
(all rates are in Euros)
(2002 increase held over to 31/3/02)
It is not possible to draw meaningful conclusions from these
figures because they do not take into account such factors as
the allocation of costs and charges between en route, terminal
area and airport ATC services, the additional costs arising from
the complexity of the ATC task in the South East of England, the
strength of the pound against the Euro, and the extent to which
costs in some countries are directly funded by Government.
The Performance Review Commission (PRC) has been established
under the auspices of Eurocontrol to benchmark the efficiency
of air traffic service providers in Europe, though this work is
at an early stage. However it is clear that a higher proportion
of NATS' air navigation service costs are recovered through en
route charges than in some other European states, whereas terminal
charges in the UK (for approach and airport ATC services) are
lower. NATS also has a significantly lower proportion of "overflights"
(yielding the most revenue for the least workload under current
The following table is based on PRC data and indicates that,
on a total cost per flight basis, NATS was already broadly on
a par with other major states in Europe prior to the PPP. The
table also indicates the proportion of overflights in these states.
As noted above, NATS charges have since come down and average
European charges increased by 12 per cent in 2002.
| ||En Route|
|Source: PRC Benchmarking Report July 2002, using data for 2000.
The HSE's Report was sent to NATS on 15 March and made seven
recommendations. NATS accepted all of these recommendations without
dispute and responded accordingly to the HSE on 21 May. The current
position is as follows:
The clarity and readability of the information on the
radar screens should be reviewed with a view to making further
improvements. From the figures provided it appears that the character
heights comply with the minimum set out in ISO 9241-3 when viewed
from about 750mm (ie 16' of arc), but it is clear that readability
is an issue. It may be possible to further enlarge the text so
that it falls within the preferred range (20'-22' of arc). If
not then clarity will need to be improved using other techniques
such as improving the luminance contrast, or through the judicious
use of colour.
A full evaluation is ongoing and different screen fonts,
sizes and colours are being evaluated. Changes to the fonts have
been prototyped and the results of initial consultations with
staff, including some of those who had expressed concerns, have
been encouraging. A general consensus needs to be established
amongst operational staff that any changes proposed will meet
earlier concerns. Subject to that being achieved, the aim will
be to incorporate changes in the next main software build scheduled
for November or before if possible.
The display screens are limited by their 60 Hz refresh
rate. In order to minimise the perception (and effects) of flicker
a fundamental review of the screen design should be considered
with increased use of negative polarity images (ie light text
on a dark background), although care will be needed that this
does not increase the effect of any reflections on the screen.
Ultimately the screens should be replaced with ones which are
capable of a 75 Hz refresh rate or better. Information has been
provided demonstrating that NATS has been investigating the use
of large LCD screens as a possible future replacement.
An evaluation of LCD and emerging technology screens is underway
at the Air Traffic Management Development Centre, in conjunction
with Swanwick. An engineering order has been raised to investigate
the possibility of increasing the refresh rate of the existing
The design of the keyboard is not ideal and does not comply
with ISO 9241-4 in terms of its overall height and lack of adjustable
tilt. The risk of upper limb problems from use of the keyboard
appears to be greatest, but still fairly low, for Planners and
Assistants. Further work in the form of a suitable and sufficient
risk assessment may be required to more accurately determine the
level of risk. Appropriate steps should be taken to minimise this
risk. These might include provision of some form of movable wrist
support in front of the keyboard, and ultimately replacement of
the keyboard with an ISO 9241-4 compliant design.
Engineering work is being undertaken to assess the feasibility
and complexity changing the existing keyboard case for a slimmer
design. An assessment is underway regarding the function of the
specialized keys in relation to proposed operational changes.
In the event of a complete keyboard change being necessary, compliance
with ISO 9241-1 will be specified for the replacement.
The usability of the mouse should be reviewed to ensure
that its setup (sensitivity/gain) is appropriate, even when used
with a mat. All staff should be offered a suitable mouse mat for
use with the mouse. NATS should check that there is sufficient
space available for resting the wrist/forearm whilst operating
the mouse and take appropriate steps if there is not.
Mouse mats are available for all operational staff who wish
to use one. No comments have been received to date regarding lack
of space for using the mouse, but this remains under review via
the in house "observations" process.
The position of the auxiliary SIS display should be reviewed.
Its overall height should preferably be reduced so that the top
of the screen is no higher than the user's eyes.
An internal order has been raised to undertake an engineering
assessment of the feasibility and complexity of changing the SIS
The suitability of the chairs for all operators should
be checked. In particular NATS needs to ensure that when the chair
is adjusted to the appropriate height for the user that the armrests
(even if adjustable) do not prevent them from pulling the chair
close to the workstation.
1. A Memo has been sent to all Ops room staff advising
on the importance of the need to select a suitable chair and set
up the workstation correctly.
2. All staff have been being instructed on correct setting
up of the chairs.
3. Chairs have been marked to allow easier identification
of the different sizes.
4. Certain Ops room staff have been instructed in how
to demonstrate correct setting up of chairs and to monitor their
use in the Ops Rooms.
5. A number of chairs have had their arms removed to
assess if this will allow better use of the workstation.
The design of the footrest should be evaluated to ensure
it provides adequate support to all shorter users, and a suitable
replacement provided if it does not.
Different types and sizes of footrest are available. The
importance of the use of these, where appropriate, is also covered
in the work undertaken for addressing Recommendation 6.
NATS' FINANCIAL STRUCTURE
The Sub-Committee has asked for further information on the
impact of additional equity for NATS' financial structure.
The Sub-Committee will recall from the memorandum submitted
on 7 June that the aim is to develop a composite solution to the
financial situation that would involve current and prospective
shareholders, the lending banks, the CAA and NATS itself. For
its part, NATS has committed to delivering significant additional
cost savings over the remainder of the first Control Period to
2005. Good progress has been made on the process of attracting
new capital into the business, and the Government has indicated
that it will be prepared to match an appropriate level of private
sector investment. In addition, we are looking to our lenders
to make a number of concessions and a further part of the solution
is a decrease in the amount by which en route charges must be
reduced, which requires the approval of the CAA. The outcome on
each of these components has the potential to affect the outcome
on the others.
As regards the current position on the potential financial
contribution from BAA plc, the Committee will appreciate that
the negotiations have not yet been completed and therefore that
the precise details of the arrangements remain commercially confidential
and subject to confirmation. BAA plc have indicated that they
would be prepared to make a contribution in the range £50
million£65 million and the Government has said that
it remains committed to matching an appropriate level of investment.
Not all of the contribution from BAA plc is expected to take the
form of equity. A proportion is likely take the form of subordinate
debt, but the whole will be structured in such a way as to ensure
a strengthening of the company's balance sheet.
We are not yet in a position to reveal the final breakdown
in the share ownership structure but the Government has said that
it remains committed to retaining a 49% stake in the business.
It remains NATS' understanding that the Government contribution
will be made contemporaneously with that of the new investor.
The total cost to NATS of professional advice for work relating
to the PPP was £13.6 million. Of this amount, £10.6
million was incurred up to 31 March 2001 and was reimbursed by
the Government. The balance of £3 million was incurred after
31 March 2001 and was absorbed by NATS. Some additional costs
relating to the physical separation of NATS from the CAA, and
advice on the New Scottish Centre contract, were also reimbursed.
Ongoing costs for professional advice in relation to NATS
financial structure to date have amounted to £2.5 million.
10 July 2002