Berlin Fiasco Unfinished Airport Costs 20 Million Euros a Month

Berlin's beleaguered new international airport is turning out to be Germany's most expensive construction site. Round-the-clock lighting and air-conditioning contribute to energy costs even higher than those of the city's still-active Tegel Airport.
Germany's most expensive construction site: Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport.

Germany's most expensive construction site: Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport.

Foto: Patrick Pleul/ dpa

Berlin's new airport , officially known as Berlin Brandenburg Willy Brandt Airport (BER), is shaking out to be the most expensive construction site in Germany. Since last summer, work on the once-touted, long-awaited and largely completed terminal has almost come to a standstill. For months, activity has been restricted almost exclusively to identifying the structure's manifold design errors and construction defects, such as those with the fire safety system.

The costs of this standstill are immense. According to a recent financial inquiry commissioned by Hartmut Mehdorn, the new CEO of the much-maligned project, the ghost airport devours nearly €20 million ($26 million) per month -- or nearly a quarter of a billion euros per year. The money is spent  on cleaning, security, maintenance, repairs and, above all, energy.

According to the recent evaluation, the power consumption of the new airport is higher than that of Berlin 's Tegel Airport , where more than 400 aircraft take off and land every day. BER's empty high-tech terminal is also lit around the clock. The access roads to the airport and those on the airport grounds are illuminated every day starting at dusk.

The air conditioning is currently running at full blast in the terminal and the adjacent structures, and energy is also provided to 750 building containers still on the premises. Elevators and escalators must be set in motion at least once a week to keep them functional. However, the flat-screen monitor that was still displaying fictional takeoffs and landings last August has finally been shut off.

An Embarrassing Fiasco

BER was built to consolidate the capital's air traffic into a single airport, replacing the three that once operated in the formerly divided city. It was originally scheduled to open in 2010, but that opening has been postponed four times. A widely anticipated opening date in June 2012 was cancelled just weeks in advance.

The delays have turned the airport into an embarrassing fiasco  for the capital. Construction experts checking the building at the end of last year found hundreds of faults, including major problems with the fire safety system, cracks in the floor tiles and problems with the airport's local area network, which steers everything from the check-in system to the runway lights.

For the time being, no new date has been set. But the airport is not expected to open before 2014, at the earliest.