April 9, 2018 / 4:58 PM / 10 days ago

Berlin risks being a capital city without an airport, minister warns

BERLIN (Reuters) - Berlin risks becoming a capital without an airport if its long-delayed new flight hub fails to open on schedule, Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer warned.

FILE PHOTO: German Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer arrives at a cabinet meeting in Berlin, Germany, March 28, 2018. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

The saga of Berlin-Brandenburg Airport has become a running joke for Berliners since 2012, when it missed the first of many completion deadlines, and an emblem of Europe’s richest country’s struggle to deliver major infrastructure projects on time.

“If nothing happens then there is a danger that at the end of 2019 Berlin won’t have an airport,” Scheuer told the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Saturday, urging city officials not to shut the old Tegel Airport too soon.

City officials had planned to close the Cold War-era Tegel Airport within six months of the new airport’s opening, now scheduled for October 2020. City officials were not immediately available for comment on Monday.

FILE PHOTO: The main building and tower of Tegel Airport seen in Berlin, Germany, Sept. 14, 2017. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt/File Photo

The new international airport’s initial opening date in June 2012 was called off with only three weeks to spare, leaving airlines racing to reschedule their operations at the last minute.

Since then the project has been plagued by further delays, allegations of bribery and technical issues.

Centrally located Tegel is popular with many travellers, and Berliners voted to keep the Cold War era airport open by around 56 percent in a non-binding referendum in September 2017.

The new airport, under construction since 2006, will also be too small on completion, as it has an initial capacity of 27 million. The two airports currently serving Berlin, Tegel and Schoenefeld, served around 30 million in 2017.

Reporting by Charley-Kai John; Editing by Alison Williams

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