Postcard From...Berlin


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The Independent Online

While London continues the long march towards aviation nirvana by steadily opening new airports, Berlin heads doggedly in the opposite direction.

When the Berlin Wall fell the city had four airports: the Nazi era Tempelhof airfield used by both Adolf Hitler and then the allies during the famous Berlin blockade; Schönefeld, the airport of the former communist east; Tegel for the capitalist west; and Gatow for the Royal Air Force.

Today Tempelhof is a public park and allotment garden, Gatow is a housing estate and there are plans to shut down Tegel and Schönefeld for commercial air traffic. Some time, and nobody is quite sure when, all flights to and from the German capital will take off and land at the prestigious new "Willy Brandt" airport on the south eastern fringes of the city. But the project has become a farce. Plans to open "Willy Brandt" in June were cancelled at the last minute because of inadequate fire precautions.

Now the planners say they cannot be certain that they can make the postponed opening date which had been scheduled for March.

The delay is causing the new airport to run up massive debts before a single aircraft has taken off. Costs have doubled and are still rising. Central government is to provide an additional cash injection of more than 1bn euros just to keep the project afloat.

The planners now hold their meetings in a bunker surrounded by a barbed wire fence to keep away a hostile press.