Posts Tagged ‘BER’

Berlin-Brandenburg Airport – Project from Hell

Monday, October 19th, 2015

Construction of Berlin’s new metropolitan airport, the Willy Brandt Berlin-Brandenburg Airport (BER), began in 2006. Named after the chancellor who governed former West Germany in the early 1970s, the new airport was to open in 2011. BER is a project of the city-state of Berlin, the regional government of Brandenburg and the federal government of Germany. The topping-out ceremony was held in 2010, but the opening was delayed – first until 2012, then until 2013, and most recently until 2017 In the meantime, the cost of building the new airport has risen from a projected $4.9 billion to $6 billion and may approach $7.2 billion by completion time. Meanwhile the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport is costing German taxpayers a whopping $17.9 million per day just to heat, light and keep its essential systems going. BER has not only been at the butt of many jokes, but after four delays and without a definite completion date in sight, Germany’s reputation for top quality work has been seriously tarnished.

Further Delays for Berlin-Brandenburg Airport

Now there are new potential delays on the horizon. Berlin-Brandenburg Airport’s most serious problem at this time is its faulty fire protection system. While the architects had intended to funnel smoke underneath the airport halls, ventilators were installed on the roof instead. That’s probably because the chief planner for the fire protection system was not an engineer. He was a technical draftsman, as emerged recently A monitoring committee found that three of the airport’s twenty ceiling panels are  fitted with ventilators that are too heavy. With 8,800 pounds, the ventilators are twice as heavy as called for. The discovery prompted the committee to issue a stop-work order, and workers are not allowed to work inside the terminal until modifications are made.

That’s not all. It has also come to light that unreliable foamed concrete was used for 600 fire-resistant walls. Before final inspection can be passed, these walls will have to be reinforced or replaced.

And there are other issues with the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport: There aren’t enough check-in counters and luggage retrieval systems, the IT system cooling units are too weak, the ducts through which cables are routed are dangerously over-burdened and the airport will be too small after all to handle the expected air traffic.

Corruption charges surround Berlin-Brandenburg Airport

One of the airport’s biggest contractors, Imtech Germany, the company that was in charge of repairing the airport’s faulty fire-safety system, has filed for bankruptcy. The insolvency declaration followed kickback allegations This is not the first time that bribery charges have surrounded the construction of BER. Last year, the airport’s technical director, Jochen Grossmann, was convicted of corruption. A fraud probe into several other contractors is underway. Germany’s Bild newspaper reported that three well-known companies are currently under investigation for fraud in connection with work on the Berlin-Brandenburg Airport: Siemens, Bosch and Deutsche Telekom.

Is Berlin-Brandenburg Airport the project from hell? It looks that way!


For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.








Berlin Brandenburg Airport boondoggle

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015

Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) has been under construction since 2006 and continues to be a source of nonstop embarrassment for Germany. BER, 11 miles south of the center of the city, was supposed to replace both, Tegel and Schoenefeld airports. The two older airports have become outdated and far too small to adequately serve the projected annual passenger total of around 27 million. Berlin Brandenburg’s opening was initially scheduled for 2010, but quickly pushed back to 2011. Ten days prior to the second planned opening, BER’s inauguration was rescheduled again, this time for 2012. Airport manager, Rainer Schwarz, was fired and replaced by Hartmut Mehdorn.

Corruption, mismanagement and safety issues have pushed back the opening date of Berlin Brandenburg International Airport again and again and resulted in sizable cost overruns. The latest inauguration estimates suggest a date somewhere between the first half of 2017 and the last half of 2018. In the meantime, construction permits for BER’s south wing will expire in August 2015 and permits for the main terminal have an expiration date in October. Extensions are less than desirable because they will add additional environmental protection requirements and barrier-free installations.

Muehlenfeld becomes new CEO

In the latest development, Hartmut Mehdorn, BER’s current airport manager, will step down in June of 2015. Karsten Muehlenfeld, a former executive at Rolls Royce in Germany, will take over the reins. Muehlenfeld who had just left Rolls Royce and accepted a position with the train manufacturer Bombardier in February, agreed to take over as the new airport manager of BER instead of working for Bombardier.

Berlin Brandenburg Airport declared too small

Another bombshell in the ongoing BER boondoggle is that the airport that hasn’t even opened yet has already been called “too small” to handle the expected air traffic. Planners say that they underestimated the number of passengers the airport would serve. In response, Mehdorn proposed last December to add another terminal. If approved, the additional terminal would serve an additional 8 to 10 million passengers and be located adjacent to the northern wing of the main terminal. It will now be up to Muehlenfeld to decide whether or not this possibility should be pursued. One of the main issues with a potential terminal addition is that the 6 million residents living in the airport area have previously rejected the idea.

Berlin Brandenburg Additional Costs

Estimated current total costs for BER amount to €5.4 billion. The planned additions would add €2.19 billion to that figure. But there is also talk of a third runway at the tune of an additional €1 billion and other new projects such as expanded baggage system and another freight facility. The total additional costs could amount to €3.2 billion.



For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.