BER Management Assures the Airport Shall Go Live in 2017

That’s the good message, received just in time before the turn of the year: Berlin’s eternal construction site BER is scheduled to open up its gates in the second half of 2017. Given the many still existing problems it’s an ambitious timeframe. The bad news is: once ready, BER will be way too small.

Needs to be expanded before the first flight takes off – Berlin Brandenburg International (BER)  /  illustrations: airport authority
Needs to be expanded before the first flight takes off – Berlin Brandenburg International (BER) / illustrations: airport authority

Wow, quite an accomplishment: Berlin Brandenburg International’s management just declared that the “phase of preparatory work” for getting the BER project on track has come to an end, followed by “phase two,” the completion of the airport.
Just as a reminder: According to the original timeframe the airport should have been inaugurated in October of 2011. Ever since, the public owners were forced to postpone the date various times due to the many design faults and poor workmanship. Ever since, costs are spiraling out of control.

Still a lot of work to be done
With 32 percent of the wrongly designed fire protection system being replaced and 42 percent of the undersized cable trays being enlarged for fitting in additional cable bundles needed for the electronic control of all systems and ensuring the safe exchange of data, the management felt the time has come to ring in a new phase.
They now “proudly” announced that “all planning should be finished by mid-2015 and the construction work completed by March 2016. Fifty per cent of the area of the passenger terminal should be completed by mid-2015. Parallel to this, the plans for the rebuilding of the smoke extraction systems will be drawn up, they assure.
Once accomplished, the remaining areas will be completed and the commissioning and acceptance will be prepared, assures the airport company. They again proudly announced that the time of looking into a crystal ball to get any answers as to where the BER project is heading is definitely over. “It will now be possible to publicly measure the progress of the project on the basis of the milestones schedule,” declares the future operator.
Let’s wait and see!


Phase III
Phase 3 of the airport opening process will be concluded with the acceptance and tests in the second half of 2017. The duration of this phase depends on two factors which currently cannot be determined with certainty: How good is the inspection documentation and further documentation of the airport management company? And how quickly will the independent experts and the licensing authorities do their work?
So there are still many if’s and but’s that need to be answered until the first flight takes off.

But much like a Hydra the next major problem is lurking around the corner: BER is conceived for only 27 million passengers per year. Way too small, in view of the rapidly growing number of travelers in Berlin. They are estimated to break through the 30 million mark in 2016, one year before the expected opening of BER. Until then they have no alternative but to use the existing airport Berlin Tegel (TXL) offering a maximum capacity of 17 million passengers. For accommodating the expected additional millions flying to and from Berlin, the much indebted city will have to invest additional €20 million to upgrade Tegel despite the fact that the airport will be shut down once BER goes online.

€50 million per month
Meanwhile, BER’s total costs are expected to exceed €6 billion by the time the first flight takes off. According to original plans drawn up by politicians it should have cost no more than €2 billion. Quite wishful thinking. Currently, the BER project costs the German taxpayers €1.6 million every single day.

The new state-of-the-art Cargo Center is operational since 2013
The new state-of-the-art Cargo Center is operational since 2013

Trailblazing cargo activities
How things can be done much better and accomplished according to plan is shown by the air freight people. They inaugurated the BER Cargo Center in July of 2013. The building comprises 12,000 square meters, including warehouse space and offices. It’s based on a modular concept, can thus be expanded if required by demand. In today’s form it can accommodate up to 100,000 tons of cargo per year. Today, only the U.S. package delivery companies UPS and FedEx are utilizing the facility. Their freighters land at BER neighboring old Schoenefeld Airport, the major gateway of former Communist ruled East Germany.
Until they can pack their Schoenefeld bags and switch over their operations to BER it will take another 2.5 years – if not more! 

Heiner Siegmund

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