Fifteen ‘third generation’ eGates, which are expected to process around 400,000 passengers at the terminal each month, have been officially opened at Heathrow Terminal 5.
The eGates can be used by any UK or European Economic Area (EEA) passenger aged 18 or over, with a ‘chipped’ passport, and use advanced facial recognition technology to compare the passenger’s face to the digital image recorded in their passport.
Border Force (UK immigration) officers monitor the system and any passengers rejected by the gates are directed to the staffed clearance desks to be seen by an officer.
Heathrow Terminal 5 has had five ABC eGates for a few years and they are very popular.
There have been two problems with them:
- They were ‘hidden’ behind pillars and many passengers only see them once they join the line for the staffed border control desks.
- For some reason they get switched off round about 2300 just as many passengers arrive, causing confusion and long lines at staffed border control (surely this is the best time to have them available)
Hopefully both of these problems will be removed with the introduction of the new and increased number of ABC eGates.
Automated technology, such as eGates, should give Border Force the ability to process a higher number of low risk passengers more quickly and use fewer resources (i.e. people).
This reduces queue times as well as freeing Border Force Officers up to focus on other priority work such as cracking down on the smuggling of dangerous goods and identifying potential victims of trafficking.
Sir Charles Montgomery, Director General of Border Force, said:
Increasing the use of digital technology at the border is part of Border Force’s commitment to improve the passenger experience.
We must protect our borders, but we also want to encourage travellers to the UK – people who boost our economy through tourism and through business.
This means ensuring their arrival in the UK is dealt with as swiftly and efficiently as possible while maintaining the integrity and security of the UK.
The eGates not only benefit British and EEA passengers. Nationals from the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Japan who have successfully been accepted onto the Registered Traveller programme can now also use them.
Registered Traveller allows regular passengers fast-tracked entry into the UK. For a small fee, applicants undergo security checks in advance of travel meaning that, on arrival to the UK, they are able to use the EEA queues and eGates upon their arrival, bypassing queues for non-EEA passengers.
N.B. Image credit: gov.uk