“Stop BER,” Pirates demand

The costs for getting Berlin Brandenburg International Airport (BER) out of the starting blocks are spiraling out of control. Shocked by the rising tide of bad news and disastrous financial figures the convention of the small Pirate Party in Brandenburg State, on whose grounds BER is being build, has demanded with vast majority to stop the entire project and search for alternative solutions. With them taking up this theme, other legislative bodies could follow suit. If so, a former vision might again come to life: building a mega-hub somewhere halfway between Berlin and Hamburg.

Neat on the drawing board, disastrous in reality – Berlin Brandenburg International  /  source: Berlin Airports
Neat on the drawing board, disastrous in reality – Berlin Brandenburg International / source: Berlin Airports

Meadows, fields, and only relatively few residents: The area along the Autobahn A24 linking Hamburg and Berlin in the State of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is known for its rural character. Unemployment dropped in recent times but still reaches 12 percent in average, a rather high proportion compared with other German States.

This obvious economic standstill could be overcome, at least selectively, if the ruling Social Democrats and Christian Democrats in the States of Brandenburg and Berlin would follow the example of their Pirate colleagues by scrapping the BER project and choose another site for building a large airport.

Of course, this requires a lot of courage but, as problems mount and expenditures reach Himalayan heights, seems to become a viable alternative to the never-ending BER story.
This project has been screwed up from the very beginning, proven by the financial misery. According to original calculations, BER was supposed to cost €1.7bn and celebrate its opening ceremony in 2010. Meanwhile, the airport company concedes that expenditures could surpass €5bn, since the repair of malfunctions deriving from massive constructional defects has caused an explosion of costs. However, this figure mightn’t be the end of the line, as tabloid newspaper Bild indicated in a recent report, speaking of more than €8bn it might cost to push the project on track. A horrendous and shocking sum, payable entirely by the tax payers. The situation is aggravated by the fact that until today no official opening date has been announced. Optimists speak of 2015; pessimists indicate it might be 2017 or even after. The airport company feels unable to provide precise information.


It takes guts to push the reset button
So why not ordering the removal vans to Schoenefeld southeast of Berlin and direct them to some location in the middle of Hamburg and the German capital?

The advantages are obvious:
Germany’s by far largest metropolitan regions by inhabitants, accounting for well over ten million people, would join forces in aviation by building a commonly utilized and managed airport about halfway between both 280 km distant cities. Linked with high-speed trains, travelers and cargo shipments would need less than an hour from Berlin to the future airport or Hamburg respectively. Due to the thinly populated area along the A24 Autobahn 24/7/365 air traffic would be possible without public outcry. Thousands of badly needed new jobs would be enabled in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, stopping local worker’s migration and upping the State’s fiscal resources.
Finally, relocating BER some 120 or 150 kilometers westwards, provided the site is well connected by rail and highway, would cost much less than repairing the multitude of errors and construction sins committed at Berlin Brandenburg International up to now.

So the big question is, if other political parties are courageous enough to follow the path now predefined by the Pirates at their latest convention. Abandoning the BER project would end a decade lasting nightmare and enable keen aviation visions to become reality.  


Heiner Siegmund