Berlin’s new airport starts drowning in debt

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A total of 14 years after the start of the works, 9 after the first scheduled date for the inauguration, after six delays for its start-up and with a final price – officially, close to 6,000 million euros – almost two thirds more expensive than initially budgeted, the new berlin airport, the Willy Brandt Airport (BER), it is ready to take off.

If there are no last minute surprises, the Saturday October 31 A Lufthansa plane and an Easyjet plane will land on its runways. Almost everything is ready at check-in points, the boarding gates and in shops such as cafes and shops so that the first passengers can begin to circulate through the huge facilities.

For the moment only his terminal 1. T2, which is also ready, will start operating when required by air traffic. Terminals 3 and 4 are only a project for the future, when the numbers of travelers increase and debts are reduced. The brand new facilities will be supported by the T5 call, which is nothing other than the old Schönefeld airport – originally from the eastern part of the German capital – which will partially and foreseeably continue for another decade.

Disastrous management

Hard to believe that disastrous architectural project has been carried out in the capital of the first economic power of the European Union: if the German elite tends to show off one thing, it is from the planning and organizing capacity from the country. In addition to becoming a reason for jokes On the part of Berliners, Willy Brandt – the third largest German airport after Frankfurt and Munich – seems destined to coexist with misfortune: its long-awaited inauguration arrives in the middle of a global pandemic that has paralyzed a good part of the national and international air traffic.

The modern facilities of the BER, designed to receive up to 40 million travelers annually, they will expect to receive only about 5,000 users on the first of November. With the closing a week after the little Tegel airport, located in the north of Berlin, the number of passengers will increase to 16,000. The Willy Brandt will therefore operate at just 20% of its full capacity. Despite the fact that the airport will not even be able to celebrate the celebrations planned for its inauguration, some of its technicians prefer to see the positive part of the pandemic: the ability to react, in case of a failure in the security systems or any other element of the facilities, it will be easier thanks to the few planes that will land over the next few months.

Millionaire aid

The new airport from Berlin is also born in serious financial difficulties: half of the almost 6,000 euros of the final construction cost are credits that the airport should be amortizing over the next few years, as recognized by Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, president of the management company of the facility. That goal seems difficult at the moment, since the pandemic will continue to seriously limit the use of the plane and that the income projected before the health crisis will be unattainable for the moment.

The opposition fraction from The Greens at Bundestag He has already proposed a plan to reduce a debt that, under current conditions, will be impossible to pay with his own means. The owners of the Willy Brandt airport – that is, the city-state of Berlin, the neighboring federal state of Brandenburg and the federal government – have already injected 300 million euros so far in 2020 and are planning to grant another loan of 500 million next year. The airport threatens to become a bottomless pit from public money.

Political leaders

“First, you have to plan well, then you have to try to change as little as possible in the course of the works, calculate enough time periods for construction and project realistic costs,” responds the president of the airport Willy Brandt when asked asks what German policy should do differently to avoid futures fiascos like the new berlin airport. The response of Daldrup, who took over the management of Willy Brandt after several changes in the management direction, is review open to political managers of the enormous infrastructure that the German capital – with three historic airports due to the division it suffered during the cold war – had needed for years.

“We are at the gates of the inauguration.” This phrase uttered in 2011 by the former mayor of Berlin, the Social Democrat Klaus Wowereit, sums up the chaotic management of an airport that has been overshadowed by constant failures in the fire system, the transfer of contracts to companies unable to meet the objectives and by accusations of corruption that still do not clear.

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