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Airport debacle hurts 'Made in Germany' brand

Published: 10 Jan 2013 11:12 GMT+01:00

On Monday, Berlin's mayor said the opening of the capital's new main airport would have to be postponed from October indefinitely after several previous delays due to a series of technical issues.

Chancellor Angela Merkel was "concerned" about news surrounding the airport, her spokesman Steffen Seibert told reporters on Wednesday.

The Berlin-Brandenburg Airport was slated to open its doors in June 2012 but has suffered multiple delays due to a raft of technical difficulties and construction errors. German media reports on Thursday suggested the opening could even be pushed back until 2017.

The new airport, to be named after former chancellor Willy Brandt, will eventually replace Berlin's two existing airports, Tegel in the northwest of the city, and the southeastern-located Schönefeld, which is where the new facility is being built.

It was designed to finally end the vestiges of Berlin's Cold War division and deal with a sharp rise in air traffic to the region in the two decades since the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification.

But "the problems are... very severe", the new airport's technical chief, Horst Amann, acknowledged in a radio interview, declining to offer a specific new opening date.

"2014 is a good number but I can't commit myself to it now," he acknowledged.

The main reason for the delay has been the fire detection system, Amann said, adding he could not rule out having to destroy parts that had already been constructed to resolve problems.

The debacle has prompted many questions and much head-scratching about Germans' much-touted efficiency.

"It's bad for our good image," the spokesman for Germany's Association for Electrical, Electronic and Information Technologies, Walter Boermann, told news agency AFP.

He worried that for German manufacturers eyeing contracts for major infrastructure projects in big Asian cities, near daily reports about problems with building works could tarnish the "Made in Germany" brand.

"Do Germans no longer know how to see through big prestigious projects?" Germany's ZDF public television asked.

ZDF pointed to other troubled building projects, such as a controversial railway station in the southwestern city of Stuttgart or the Elbphilharmonie concert hall in the northern port city of Hamburg that are running millions of euros over budget. There have also been massive problems with a new U-Bahn metro line in Cologne.

Town planner Karlheinz Roessler laid the blame at the door of the system of governance.

"Politicians have monuments built. But mostly they are no longer around when the costs of the project they have begun have exploded," he said.

So far no politicians' heads have rolled as a result of the airport debacle.

Pressure on both Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit and the head of the Brandenburg state government -- the region surrounding the German capital -- Matthias Platzeck is increasing however.

Both men, who are from the centre-left Social Democratic Party, face imminent votes of confidence in their respective regional assemblies but are expected to keep their jobs.

Berlin's two airports currently welcome around 24 million visitors a year, less than half the 56 million passengers who pass through Frankfurt's airport in western Germany, even though the capital's population is roughly five times greater.

Frankfurt has built its airport into the third biggest hub in Europe and serves as a continental gateway.

AFP/The Local/mry

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Your comments about this article

11:26 January 10, 2013 by The-ex-pat
The Berlin-Brandenburg Airport was slated to open its doors in June 2012-------------Well the Hangar door don't even do that now. it is reported that the new Air Berlin hanger is subsiding and the doors only open half way...................
13:02 January 10, 2013 by pepsionice
Here's the thing....major projects in Germany today are mostly built on fraud. A 300 million Euro project that is supposed to open on X-day, will take at least one extra year, and in most cases....maybe two years. Every single project consumes more money than even the extra ten percent projected amount. The public doesn't really know about these delays because the media mostly just looks over the story and says it's a non-story. Well....then you find out three years later that political folks had to cough up an extra 40 million Euro to wrap up project.

A good example of bad management on projects is the KMC center in Ramstein. It was finally opened around four years late. Blame? No newspaper has ever touched the topic.
13:50 January 10, 2013 by delvek
Well ... when a mail handler is penalized for finding a faster way to deliver his mail ...
14:36 January 10, 2013 by XFYRCHIEF
@delvek - same thought: "Germans are becoming concerned that their fabled international reputation for efficiency is being harmed..." Yes, unless you are a postman. But then it seems that Germans are very efficient at following rules.
17:27 January 10, 2013 by smart2012
I guess two issues:

1. State is trying to get the cheapast price in the bid (as they do not have enough money). And companies offers it just to get the contract, however knowing that at that price they will not be able to hit timing nor completion of the project.

2. Corrruption - the company who knows the right people will be able to give the right "lowest" offer, and they will win the bid.

The "made in Germany" quality is only driven by the fact that Germans product cost triple than others, not because the made in Germany is better than others.

Until this will not come out of the people mind, Germany (and the same for other EU countries) will always lose against countries like China.

Btw, car example, the car brand with the best ratio quality vs cost is Toyota
17:52 January 10, 2013 by mignargon
To those statistics, you can add that it has taken the city of Bonn and the German Government more than 7 years to deliver a new building to the United Nations in the UN Campus in Bonn.

And the delivery date is still uncertain ... !
23:14 January 10, 2013 by Eric1
Entrepreneurs, capitalism, hard work, have been punished by Europeans for decades. We have been successful in destroying what has made Europe great. Ain't socialism great,
03:57 January 11, 2013 by stablemate
yes it is disgrace airport not working......the question is true in face of german making airport work....sorry
20:26 January 11, 2013 by Englishted
Germany is not and never has been famous for it's building projects ,engineering manufacturing yes ,but buildings no.
23:07 January 11, 2013 by andywindy
Hang on a minute, all these public buiding projects coming on stream years late and vastly over budget.. and yet in Britian we had the 2012 Olympic Park and all the facilities at the other venues ready early and on budget !

We seem to have swapped reputations then, or maybe you need to borrow Boris for a while? Now He'd REALLY get under Angela's skin!
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