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Government told e-gates no longer reliable after latest meltdown causes passenger chaos

Simon Calder’s Travel

The prospect of further airport chaos has been raised with a warning to the government that the e-gates system which automatically checks travellers’ passports is no longer reliable – following yet another nationwide meltdown.

Airports including Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Stansted and Edinburgh saw long queues and delays after the country’s Border Force passport e-gates were hit by a nationwide glitch on Tuesday.

It marks the second e-gates failure in as many weeks, and also follows the late May bank holiday outage of less than a year ago. But with the cause of the latest failure currently unknown, it is unclear whether the incidents are connected.

All clear? Electronic Travel Authorisations are required for an increasing number of nationalities seeking to travel to the UK (Simon Calder)

In a statement early on Wednesday, the Home Office said: “As soon as engineers detected a wider system network issue at 7.44pm last night, a large scale contingency response was activated within six minutes … e-gates at UK airports came back online shortly after midnight.”

Home Office minister Tom Pursglove told MPs on Wednesday that an investigation had determined the incident was caused by “technical issues within the Home Office network”.

“At this stage, I can assure the House and the wider public that all security checks were maintained throughout. Border security was not compromised at any point and there is no indication of malicious cyber activity. Police access to operational systems was unaffected.”

He further stated: “I sincerely apologise for the disruption that occurred. I can assure the House that the Home Secretary and I will be unswerving in our determination to ensure that every possible lesson is learned, to ensure that this does not happen again.”

But his Labour counterpart Dan Jarvis warned that the recent string of failures was “unacceptable” and “brings into sharp focus how the current high capacity e-gates system is no longer reliable enough”.

The system “risks further damaging public trust in the government’s management of our border security”, Mr Jarvis warned, adding: “Britain’s border system should at all times allow lawful entry into our country and stop illegal entry. The safety and security of our country depends on it.”

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