Berlin's new airport will not be opened before August at the earliest, a government official has said, citing fire security as the main reason for the delay. But even an opening in August looks uncertain.
Berlin-Brandenburg International Airport will be opened "at least two months" later than originally scheduled, Dietmar Woidke, Interior Minister in the regional state of Brandenburg, said Tuesday.
Citing a lack of necessary fire security documents as a reason for the delay, Woidke said it was "unclear" whether the airport will be fully operational by August or even as late as September.
"Security comes first," he said, adding that the documentation for evacuation routes was not yet complete. That makes it impossible for airport safety authorities to give the green light for the opening, originally scheduled for June 3.
The surpise announcement shocked regional governments in Brandenburg and Berlin, which run the airport. The facility's official name is Willy-Brandt-Airport, after the former Berlin mayor and German chancellor of the 1970s.
Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit described the delay as "disappointing," but added that everything must be done to "ensure passenger safety" at the airport.
Matthias Platzeck, Premier of the State of Brandenburg, said he was "furious" since there was "no prior indication" that the opening would be delayed.
The two politicians said airport builders had informed them that a new date for the opening could not be given "before the summer."
Berlin-Brandenburg International is being built on the existing Schönefeld Airport, located southeast of Berlin. The new facility is slated to take over operations from Tempelhof Airport, which has already been closed, and Tegel Airport, which is due to shut down soon.
The delay marks the second failed opening after planning changes forced authorities to postpone the original opening date in November 2011.
The airport will have an initial capacity of 27 million passengers per year, though capacity is scheduled to gradually reach 50 million passengers.
The airport, which is close to Berlin's sprawling southern suburbs, has proven hugely controversial as residents fear the site will create substantial noise pollution.
uhe/srs (dpa, Reuters)