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New Berlin Airport, No White Elephant – Official

Berlin’s new international airport, delayed repeatedly due to red tape and technical problems, is on course to open in 2017, a spokesman said, denying a media report it could end up as a white elephant.

The opening will be six years after the original target date following a series of costly setbacks that have dented Germany’s reputation for strong engineering and organisational skills.

A spokesman for Berlin airports authority, Ralf Kunkel denied a report in Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper that the EUR€5.1 billion Willy Brandt airport might never be finished because its building permit expires in November 2016.

The report, quoting internal documents from the project, said a law would have to be changed to extend the permit, but Kunkel said that would not be necessary.

“There’s been no change in the schedule – we want to be finished with construction by March 2016,” Kunkel said. “After that the airport will be tested. The opening is planned for the second half of 2017. So why should it end up being an abandoned building?”

The authority has repeatedly said that deadlines would be met, but that has not proved to be the case.

In June 2012 the airport’s opening was delayed at the last minute when one local authority in charge of the fire-safety system refused to give its approval.

The opening party at the terminal for 40,000 had to be cancelled and plans to close the city’s 64-year-old inner city Tegel airport had to be shelved as a carefully planned overnight move from Tegel to Willy Brandt was scrapped.

Its opening has since been pushed back repeatedly.

The airport, which was in the planning stage for two decades and has been under construction since 2006, is jointly owned by the city of Berlin, the state of Brandenburg and Germany’s federal government.

Bild am Sonntag said any further delays could have “dramatic consequences”, citing internal documents. “If the building is not completed by then (November 23, 2016), the Berlin airport will remain an abandoned unfinished eyesore,” the paper said.

To try to prevent that prospect, a ministry in Brandenburg was drafting a law that would change building permit codes and in essence eliminate any expiry date for permits, the newspaper said.

Kunkel confirmed the building permit for the airport expires in November 2016. But he said that should be irrelevant because construction work will be finished in March 2016.

“It’s all on schedule so that is a purely hypothetical question,” he said, when asked if the law on building permits would have to be changed.

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