Hammond sets June date for new border e-gate checks

UK border controlImage source, Reuters

Heathrow Airport has welcomed the news that from June citizens from countries including the US and Singapore will be allowed to use e-gates at UK borders.

In his Spring Statement, Chancellor Philip Hammond also confirmed that paper landing cards for those citizens would be dropped at the same time.

Last year, Heathrow Airport called for the government to allow "low-risk" passengers to use e-gates.

It said delays at UK border control were too long.

The chancellor first put forward proposals to open the use of e-passport gates at airports to travellers from the US, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan in his Budget last October.

Currently, the gates which scan e-passports are reserved for European Economic Area citizens.

In December, the Home Office said people arriving from Singapore and South Korea would also be included.

Following Wednesday's announcement, Heathrow said in a statement: "This is fantastic news for Heathrow passengers.

"A good border experience is a great way to show the UK is open for business and we encourage the Government to continue to prioritise it."

Speaking on Wednesday, Mr Hammond said: "We will allow citizens of the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Japan, Singapore and South Korea to use e-gates at our airports and Eurostar terminals, alongside the EEA nationals who can already use them."

'Significantly worse'

Scrapping the need for paper landing cards is designed to remove a layer of bureaucracy.

Last year, in response to proposals for "UK-only" lines after Brexit, the boss of British Airways, Alex Cruz, wrote to the Times criticising long queues at Heathrow.

Mr Cruz said queues at Heathrow were "significantly worse" than other major hubs across the world.

He said that although the target wait for non-EEA travellers coming into Heathrow was 45 minutes, two hours was "fast becoming the norm".

Mr Cruz added: "What kind of message does this send as we try to build links outside the EU?"

At the time, the Home Office said most of those arriving at Heathrow passed border control within agreed time limits.