Friday, April 14, 2017

Where Did the New Berlin Airport Idea Come From?

About every six to eight weeks, there's some new story on BER (the new Berlin Airport, which has yet to open, now about 5 years past the opening date).  Most Germans laugh about the construction woes.  Tax revenue flows into the project and it's a negative story for the Brandenburg and Berlin governments to chat about.

How did the new airport idea start?

Shortly after the wall came down, the topic of the three regional airports in Berlin came up.  Templehof desperately needed to be closed, and both Tegal/Schonefeld were aging.  The leadership of Berlin looked at the future and determined that the only way forward was to build one single massive airport to serve both Berlin and Brandenburg.

So, they went through phases.  The first was to find a big enough open area to place this airport.  Roughly 25 km SE of the heart of Berlin was a fairly open area, with some housing.  A massive land purchase went into effect.  People who'd lived in the area for years.....were told to sell, period.  Roughly 300 residents fell into this category.

The company that was put together?  The Brandenburg government owns 37-percent, as does Berlin city government.  The German federal government owns 26-percent.

A bidding phase occurred where private companies were invited in, and they were supposed to supervise the construction and run the project. Two companies were active in the bidding.....Hochtief won.  As you might expect, the opposing company went to court (IVG).  Six months after the bid occurred with a winner....the court threw out that bid.  It was a sign of problems to come.

In the new bid process....oddly enough, IVG and Hochtief come together and put a new joint bid.  Since it's the only bid, you'd think that this would be a winner.  Well....NO.  The city reviewed the single bid and said no.....private construction and operation was not possible.  Little has ever been said about this process and why the joint bid failed.  One might assume that the cost aspect of the contract bid was fairly high.

So, the public company went forward on it's own.

Court battles then started up.  The folks from that particular region of construction sued.  The court threw out their case eventually.  Then complaints arose over the use of the other airports.....with the hard position by the government to shut down Tegal and Schonefeld once BER was active.

The original cost?  2.8 billion Euro.

Six years into construction?  Just over 4 billion Euro.

Presently, the cost is rated at 6.9 billion Euro (2016 numbers).  My humble guess is that it'll eventually arrive at operational status at between 7 and 8 billion.

It should be noted that the closure status of Tegel and Schonefeld are no longer concrete.  Schonefeld is virtually guaranteed to stay open now (too much in traffic expectations), and there are rumors that Tegal might get a second life as well.

A major screw-up?  I think the moment that the joint IVG/Hochtief bid was turned down....things were heading south.  This public company situation simply didn't have the control or knowledge necessary for the project.

Presently, folks are hopeful on a 2018 opening date.

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