Gatwick Airport deploys new ePassport gates for European travellers

The government has opened a set of updated ePassport gates at Gatwick Airport's South Terminal, after Heathrow Airport recently wrote off £5 million from the sale of its own gates to border control.

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The government has opened a set of updated ePassport gates at Gatwick Airport's South Terminal, after Heathrow Airport recently wrote off £5 million from the sale of its own gates to border control.

Immigration minister Mark Harper officially opened the "new generation" of ePassport gates at Gatwick, that allow all EU passengers - not just UK ones - with an electronic chip in their passport to pass "quickly and efficiently through immigration controls", said the government.

The government said over 10 million passengers have used ePassport gates across the UK in the past year, with numbers now operating at one million a month.

London Gatwick now has the largest single bank of ePassport gates at any point of entry in the UK.

Harper said: "We want to welcome legitimate visitors and trade which contributes to the UK economy.

"The e-Passport gates at London Gatwick Airport provide both a fast and convenient way for tourists, business visitors and Britons returning home to pass through the border securely.

Gatwick Airport has invested "significantly towards the cost of the project", the government said.

Stewart Wingate, CEO of London Gatwick, said: "Gatwick is delighted to be the first airport in the UK to offer this innovative new technology. It will make the journey of arriving passengers with chipped passports much more efficient."

EPassport gates first went live in UK airports at Manchester Airport in 2008. The new Gatwick gates replace the first generation of gates which were opened at London Gatwick South in June 2011.

The gates can be used by anyone with a UK or European "chipped" passport who is aged 18 or over, and use facial recognition technology to compare the passenger’s face to the digital image recorded in their passport.

Their details are then automatically checked against Border Force systems and watchlists. Once the checks are made the gates open automatically to allow the passenger through the border.

The system is monitored by Border Force officers and anyone rejected by the gates will be sent to an alternative channel to have their passport checked.

On the situation at Heathrow, a government spokesman said at the time of the gate sale: "This brings Heathrow in line with the national border automation strategy and clarifies responsibility for the eGates”.

They added: “We will be increasing the ePassport gate capacity for EEA [European Economic Area] passengers in a phased approach and are in the process of developing automated border controls for non-EEA passengers.”

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