Border Force Director General, Sir Charles Montgomery, today (Wednesday 21 October) officially opened fifteen new electronic passport gates (eGates) at Heathrow's Terminal 5.

Members of the Registered Traveller scheme will also be able to use the eGates and enjoy even faster clearance through the border. The new gates signalling the introduction of greater automation across all major ports and the future direction of Border Force

The ‘third generation' eGates, which are expected to process around 400,000 passengers at the terminal each month, are the most state-of-the-art version of gates ever to be used in the UK. The first generation were introduced in 2008 at Stansted and Manchester with the second updating all 115 of Heathrow terminals. Further installations are planned during 2015/16 and on into 2016/17 to support increased passenger flows. This includes our juxtaposed sites in Paris and Brussels international rail terminals.

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 officers monitor the system and any travellers rejected by the gates are directed to the staffed clearance desks to be seen by an officer.

Automated technology, such as eGates, give Border Force the ability to process a higher number of low risk passengers more quickly and using less resource. 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."

eGates not only benefit British and EEA travellers. 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 travellers 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.