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New scanners could cut airport queues

They detect explosives and liquids


New hi-tech airport X-ray screening machines which could pave the way for a relaxation in hand-luggage regulations have begun to be introduced at major UK airports.

Produced by the Smiths Group, the new machines incorporate an Advanced Threat Identification X-ray (aTiX) facility which can automatically detect explosives and liquid.

Airport operator BAA showed off one of the machines at Heathrow’s new Terminal 5 and announced that it had already installed 11 machines at the west London airport.

More of the machines, which should enable passengers to pass more quickly through airport security, will be rolled out at Heathrow over the next few months. And eventually BAA will have the new machines at all seven of its UK airports, which include Gatwick, Stansted and Glasgow.

Hand-luggage rules

Strict regulations for hand luggage have been in place at UK airports since August 2006 with passengers limited to one item of carry-on luggage and bags not being allowed to contain larger containers of liquid.

Decisions on airport security are a matter for the Department for Transport but Heathrow managing director Mark Bullock said: ‘We are hopeful that the new machines will support a move back to allowing two carry-on bags.’

The aTiX system will provide more, and clearer, images of bag contents for those monitoring security. If liquid or explosives are detected, a green sign appears on the screen in front of the security monitoring operator.

More security officers

Mr Bullock said Heathrow would soon have over 60% more security officers – around 4,000 in total – than it had in summer 2006.

Around 660 of these officers will be based at Terminal 5, to which British Airways will move almost its entire Heathrow operation when the terminal opens at the end of March 2008.

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