Airport's handling of snow probed after eighth closure

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COUNCIL chiefs have launched an investigation into Edinburgh Airport's handling of snow and ice after the eighth complete closure in six weeks.

Dozens of flights were cancelled or delayed at the weekend when operator BAA closed the airport for ten hours on Saturday as the latest snow showers hit the country.

Edinburgh has seen much more disruption than other Scottish airports and senior councillors fear it is damaging the city's reputation and risks deterring people from doing business here.

The council has convened a special resilience committee - originally set up in the wake of the global financial meltdown - to examine the impact of the severe weather on the airport.

The airport has regularly had to hire extra snowploughs and other specialist equipment, despite spending more than 1 million on new equipment after last January's cold snap.

BAA said Edinburgh has had to cope with much greater volumes of snow on its runway than any other airport and that it has to put safety first.

But Kevin Brown, the airport's managing director, admitted further investment in snow-clearing facilities might be needed and revealed he is to visit airports in Helsinki, Copenhagen and Oslo to see what lessons can be learned.

Deputy council leader Steve Cardownie said it "beggared belief" that Edinburgh had remained closed when other airports in Scotland were operating normally in recent weeks. He said: "I have no doubt people will want to ask questions of BAA. It has not been good for the reputation of the city."

Mr Brown said: "We spent more than 1m in 2010 on new equipment in preparation for this winter and have never been more prepared.

"Our new challenge is to deal with these unprecedented levels of snow. I will be visiting Scandinavia this month to see how they handle extremes.

"Safety will continue to be our primary focus, but I am determined we continue to reduce the time taken to clear snow."

Last month's heavy snowfall meant that airport operator BAA handled almost 11 per cent fewer passengers at its six UK airports than in December 2009. Edinburgh was down 18.4 per cent and Glasgow fell 15.3 per cent.

The company said the cost of the weather disruption was approximately 24 million.

A total of 7.2 million passengers passed through the six airports in December 2010 - a 10.9 per cent drop on the December 2009 figure.