Travellers warned of delays in British airports

COMMUTERS and holidaymakers have been warned to expect further delays to journeys as a result of increased security.

London’s Heathrow Airport, Europe’s busiest, yesterday urged travellers to arrive on public transport after it shut traffic lanes closest to terminal buildings, and police searched cars following three attempted British terrorist bombings.

A Scotland Yard spokesman has said more officers would be on patrol at mainline stations and on the streets to act as a “highly visible reassurance”.

Travellers should use public transport or “give themselves a few extra minutes”, said Damon Hunt, a spokesman for Grupo Ferrovial SA’s BAA Ltd, the operator of Heathrow, Gatwick and five other UK airports. Security measures caused “heavy congestion” yesterday, he said.

Britain’s Home Office, which oversees domestic security, on June 30 raised its terrorist threat assessment to “critical”, the highest level, after a Jeep Cherokee rammed into the main terminal doors at Glasgow International Airport and caught fire.

Police were stopping and searching some cars approaching airports and train stations, according to the British Transport Police. Drivers were being asked to show identification. Other than road closures, all BAA airports are operating normally, BAA said yesterday.

The heightened airport security measures will continue until the British Home Office decides “the threat has eased”, said BAA spokesman Mark Mann.

Late on Sunday, Heathrow’s Terminal 3, which handles the airport’s long-haul flights, was evacuated after the discovery of an unattended bag. The luggage was not “anything significant” and the building is now open, said Hunt.

This is the second major security alert at British airports in less than a year. In August 2006, police foiled a plan to blow up as many as 10 transatlantic aircraft. New security rules, including a ban on carrying liquids, were implemented immediately.

Glasgow Airport spokesman Donald Morrison said: “The airport is fully operational and the vast majority of flights appear to be running to schedule. We would advise anyone concerned about the status of their flight to check with their airline before leaving for the airport.”

British Airways Plc, the biggest operator of Heathrow flights, said schedules were normal yesterday and services have resumed at Gatwick after some weekend flights were cancelled.

At London’s Gatwick Airport, Britain’s second-busiest, cars are restricted to the lower sections of the airport and parking lot, spokeswoman Karen Lovett said.

On June 20, the airport closed the upper court, where cars had previously been able to drop off passengers, because it posed a security risk, Lovett said.

At London Stansted, a hub for low-cost carriers, including Ryanair and EasyJet, security was heightened with added police, Essex police spokeswoman Tabitha Wilson said yesterday. The main road leading to the building has been closed to all vehicles, except official airport buses, she said.

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