New Berlin airport a disaster area

By Tony Paterson

The new Berlin Brandenburg International Airport. Photo / AP
The new Berlin Brandenburg International Airport. Photo / AP

Berlin's new - but as yet unopened - international airport was dubbed Germany's most expensive building site after it emerged that its 24-hour lighting and air-conditioning systems had driven costs to €20 million ($32 million) a month, without a single aircraft taking off or landing.

The capital's Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport has become the laughing stock of the nation.

A year ago, its widely advertised opening had to be cancelled at the last minute because the fire-prevention system was deemed inadequate. The airport was initially scheduled to open in 2010.

A year on and with the project's board of governors apparently too anxious about delays to name a new opening date, the ghost airport has assumed the role of a seemingly never-ending, yet highly costly, farce.

"It has become the most costly, non-operational construction site in the country," as Der Spiegel magazine has described it.

Energy misuse has been singled out as the main expense. The empty main terminal building and the airport runways are illuminated around the clock by scores of powerful arc lights, although there are no aircraft and no passengers.

Last month Horst Amann, the airport's technical director, said it had proved impossible to turn the lights off: "It has to do with the fact that we haven't progressed far enough with our lighting system to be in a position to control it."

Work on completing the main terminal building came to a standstill last year. Since then, inspectors have been struggling to identify a string of construction defects and design errors, including faults in its fire prevention, baggage handling, runway lighting and check-in systems, and simple cracks in floor tiling.

A financial inquiry found that the non-functioning airport's energy costs were higher than that of Berlin's existing 65-year-old Tegel airport, where more than 400 planes take off and land each day.

The inquiry showed that the spiralling costs were incurred by lighting runways and roads and keeping the new airport's air-conditioning system running flat out in the main terminal and other adjacent structures.

Berlin-Brandenburg International is meant to become the capital's air hub, replacing Tegel and Berlin Schoenefeld and the now-closed Tempelhof airport.

- Independent

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