BER now unlikely to open before 2019

4 Apr 2016 by Alex McWhirter

Six months ago we reported that the 2017 opening date for Berlin Brandenburg was in doubt. (See news September 28, 2015).

Now Germany’s Tagesspiegel reports that the opening date is likely to be put back to 2019.

The newspaper interviewed Dieter Faulenbach Da Costa, airport architect and engineer, who was a consultant to the project.

Tagesspiegel quotes Faulenbach as saying the latest 2017 opening date is “impossible.”

Perhaps Berlin might open in the third quarter of 2018 but “realistically Berlin would be able to commence operations in the third quarter of 2019.”

But even then the problems will not be at an end. Why? Because current thinking is to close both Tegel (the city’s main airport) and Schonefeld (Berlin’s secondary airport mainly used by budget airlines). 

This means the new Berlin facility will not only have to handle the traffic of the two existing airports but meanwhile air passenger traffic has grown substantially.

Says Faulenbach, “[when the new 22 million passenger Berlin airport terminal opens] it will provide a poor quality of service. [The congested facilities will lead to] people having to wait longer than they are now used to.”

For its part, the Berlin Airports Authority would make no comment on the 2019 opening date.

Spokesperson Daniel Abbou was quoted as saying, “We are working hard to solve the problems. It was necessary to predict an opening date in the second half of 2017.”

So Germany’s capital city must soldier on with its two overcrowded and outdated airports for a few more years. Although as we reported in December 2014 (see news December 15, 2014), Tegel was granted Euros 20 million for urgent renovations.

Both for international and links, air travel is vital for Berlin. 

In the case of the latter we find Berlin located somewhat remotely from the business cities in the former West Germany with lengthy road and rail links (Hamburg excepted).

Berlin is not plumbed into the high-speed rail network. 

It is true that Deutsche Bahn operates its flagship ICEs to Berlin but these operate over conventional track for some or most of the trip.

So with the exception of Hamburg, rail journey times from major business cities remain uncompetitive with air.

From Hamburg it is a 1 hour 43 minutes sprint by ICE train.

Rail journey times from Cologne and Frankfurt take around 4 hours 15 minutes, Stuttgart-Berlin is 5 hours 30 minutes while Munich-Berlin is over 6 hours. Not all trains from these cities are direct. Some involve a change on the way.

As for long distance air service, this is very limited. Partly because existing airports are so crowded (and were designed for a different era) and partly because they lack the really long runways found at Europe’s other major airports.

So Berlin’s opening cannot come soon enough.

Alex McWhirter

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