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Berlin airport debacle in committee spotlight

The Local · 19 Oct 2012, 11:28

Published: 19 Oct 2012 11:28 GMT+02:00

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Germany was gearing up for a high-profile opening of the BER airport in June, with invitations sent and posters already plastering the capital, when officials admitted it was going to be late. A new opening date of October 27, 2013 has been set but some remain concerned this may also be missed.

The investigation is likely to take even longer, with a report expected towards the end of 2013 or even early 2014.

Martin Delius, a member of the Pirate Party, is chairing the committee set up by the Berlin state legislature. He has promised to look into the history of the giant project as well as the problems and the runaway costs, which are now expected to reach at least €4.3 billion.

The committee plans to call several witnesses, including former Berlin mayor Eberhard Diepgen, of the Christian Democrats (CDU), and Berlin's current mayor, Klaus Wowereit, a Social Democrat (SPD), and Brandenburg's state premier Matthias Platzeck (SPD).

The new airport, which sits adjacent to the existing Schönefeld Airport southeast of Berlin, was designed with the goal of consolidating all of Berlin's air traffic at one location, eliminating the need for what had been three airports in the capital: Tempelhof, which has since been closed, Tegel, in northwest Berlin, and Schönefeld, the former East Berlin airport.

The project, which is operated as a joint venture by the states of Berlin, Brandenburg, and the federal government, has been delayed three times.

Its planning, which dates back more than 15 years, has come under scrutiny in the past. A citizens' movement has formed in several suburban areas spawning protests after residents said the airport misled them regarding flight paths.

Those flight paths and why the airport location was chosen in the first place will be topics that the investigative committee will also take up, the Berliner Zeitung newspaper said on Friday. "It was going to be planned come hell or high water," committee head Delius, 28, told the paper.

The committee, which is scheduled to meet every two weeks, will be able to review documents containing confidential business information or protected data, but will not be able to discuss that information in public hearings, the paper reported.

The airport was originally supposed to open in October 2011, but that date was pushed back to June 3, 2012. Shortly before that opening, to the surprise of many, including the country’s second larget airline Air Berlin, which is planning to use the facility as a new hub, officials had to cancel their plans because of problems with the fire safety systems.

Story continues below…

The project's architects have been ousted as has the chief planner, Manfred Körtgen. The airport company has also sued the architects of the airport, claiming they had been failing to fulfil their responsibilities for years, the Berlin daily Der Tagesspiegel reported.

DAPD/The Local/mbw

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

12:52 October 19, 2012 by pepsionice
So let's put this in the right context. Every single political figure who had any input into the construction plan....over the past twenty years (even the location committee)....were in on some part of a "deal". They worked it for a construction company....a concrete company....a steel company....a IT company....etc.

As they dig into this...it will be very unpleasant, and eventually....the investigation will just stop because there's dozens of people who are at fault. Several folks will be determined to be absolutely incompetent and should never have held any public office. But I don't the public will ever hear of any of this.

Pick out the top twenty public projects since the 1980s, and they all fall into the same problem....corruption and greed.
13:59 October 19, 2012 by Kennneth Ingle
Nothing will ever change for the better, when political clowns and arrogant civil servants are not personally held responsible for the financial damage they cause.

Berlin is sexy, not brainy, what can one expect with such people running the town?
14:59 October 19, 2012 by catjones
germany is as corrupt as any third-world country. The electorate has been trained to respect their leaders no matter what and like the sheep they are, they toe the line. The ruling class knows this and are immune to any penalty so they continue on. The germans think this can continue unabated in a global environment, but over time they will be marginalized for what they are.
22:39 October 19, 2012 by blackboot11
@ catjones:

"The germans think this can continue unabated in a global environment, but over time they will be marginalized for what they are."

This says it all... (period)
06:14 October 20, 2012 by wood artist
Very late?

No, very late is still within the same decade or century. This is...well...I think it's too early to define "how late." Perhaps it would be more honest to say that it's possible that someday it might actually open, but even that may be uncertain right now.

Seriously, folks, how do you miss by this much? A couple weeks, given there are always some things left to do, would be understandable. A couple months, given the size of the thing is not too big a reach. But missing by years?

13:20 November 12, 2012 by sylvaticus
Actually this is not the only case of problems with airports in Germany. I remember about 5-6 years ago studying in Halle and got shock about its airport (shared with Leipzig): huge, huge, huge.. and.. desert, desert, desert...
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