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European transport ministers take measures to cut congestion

European transport ministers have taken measures to reduce delays due to congestion in Europe's air space. The measures were agreed on at a meeting chaired by the Swiss transport minister, Moritz Leuenberger, in Brussels.

This content was published on January 28, 2000 - 16:53

European transport ministers have taken measures to reduce delays due to congestion in Europe's air space. The measures were agreed on at a meeting chaired by the Swiss transport minister, Moritz Leuenberger, in Brussels.

The ministers from the 38-member European Civil Aviation Conference, ECAC, agreed to alter the new air corridors introduced in February, which have been the cause of widespread delays. The measure is intended to avoid chaos during the summer holiday season.

The ministers also gave Eurocontrol, the umbrella body of national air traffic control organisations, wider powers to plan air movements. The organisation was instructed to work more closely with the airlines to try to achieve a better distribution of flights throughout the day.

If these measure prove to be insufficient, the ministers agreed to set up a crisis team with powers to determine new air routes to relieve the crush.

Leuenberger underlined the importance of air traffic for the economy, but said it was not the goal of transport ministers to secure an unlimited increase in capacity, as demanded by the airlines.

Switzerland's two main airlines, Swissair and Crossair, have been putting pressure on the Swiss government to alleviate increasing air traffic delays at Zurich airport, caused by congested air corridors. Recently the military had to accept wider civil air paths over most of Europe, but this move has barely kept pace with increasing air traffic.

Switzerland is not a member of the European Union, but it can make its voice heard in ECAC and in the European Conference of Transport Ministers, CEMT. In addition, Switzerland has more recently joined Eurocontrol. Originally an EU-dominated body, Eurocontrol has every interest in having Switzerland as member, as its central location makes it a major transit route.

Despite the dominance of the EU, Europe's airspace is almost baroque in its complexity, and a far cry from the simple management of upper airspace practised in the United States

By Peter Haller

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