CAA ensures NATS regulation is fit for the future

Date: 03 September 2012

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) has today published for consultation a review of its regulation of the en route part of NATS’ air traffic control business, NERL.

The review examines what the CAA needs to achieve from its regulation of NERL in light of likely future changes in the market context such as demands from users for lower prices, future traffic projections and the increasing diversification of NATS’ activities. The aim is to ensure the CAA has at its disposal the powers to regulate NERL to meet its objectives, and that it uses these powers effectively.

The review suggests there are a number of areas where the CAA might clarify its regulation or enhance its oversight of NERL activities to reflect its assessment of future trends and challenges. These include ensuring that:

• NATS’ development of new commercial activities in the UK and overseas does not pose unacceptable risks for its ability to continue to provide its core UK regulated activities.
• NERL continues to play its full part in the activities necessary to deliver the CAA’s Future Airspace Strategy.
• There is greater clarity over the scope of NERL’s regulatory obligations in terms of some of the services it is obliged to provide.
• The CAA’s regulation of NERL is as far as possible not dependent on one particular form of its ownership structure.

The continued provision of a safe, efficient and sustainable en route air navigation service is essential to allow the CAA to further the interests of airspace users and meet its other duties and obligations under legislation, whether at a European or national level.

The review calls for NERL to do more to improve its cost efficiency and reduce prices for its airline customers when the current price control ends in 2014. This should not be at the expense of NERL continuing to provide the level of service quality airline customers expect in terms of flights delays and the environmental impact of flight routings. Cost efficiency will be a key focus for the next price control round, on which CAA has started separate consultation.

The CAA does not have any current concerns about NERL’s safety performance and competence – a record that is among the best in the world. But long-term forecasts for traffic growth and congestion will challenge traditional approaches to safety management. Hence it is important that NERL continues to invest in and maintain its strong approach to safety management.

The review proposes setting objectives and context for more detailed CAA work programmes such as its approach to safety oversight, its implementation of the Future Airspace Strategy (FAS), and its work required under the second reference period of the EU Performance Scheme (2015-2019), which will include the setting of the next NERL price control.

Consultation responses are required by 19 October 2012, before a final report early in the New Year.

The review document can be found on the CAA website here:
http://www.caa.co.uk/default.aspx?catid=2492&pagetype=90&pageid=13734

For further media information contact the CAA Press Office on: 0207 453 6030 press.office@caa.co.uk. Follow the CAA on Twitter at @UK_CAA.

Notes to Editors

1. The CAA sets price controls for the En Route part of NATS’ air traffic control business (NERL) to both maintain a high standard of safety and further the interests of users: taking into account the range, availability, continuity, cost and quality of air traffic services. The current price control runs between 2011 and 2014.
2. The terms of NERL’s licence, available in full on the CAA website, require NATS to be capable of meeting on a continuous basis any reasonable level of overall demand and charges them with permitting access to airspace on the part of all users, whilst making the most efficient overall use of airspace.
3. The CAA is the UK's specialist aviation regulator. Its regulatory activities range from making sure that the aviation industry meets the highest technical and operational safety standards to preventing holidaymakers from being stranded abroad or losing money because of tour operator insolvency.