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Berlin's money-guzzling airport could open 8 years overdue with ‘prefab metal box’ for terminal

Berlin's money-guzzling airport could open 8 years overdue with ‘prefab metal box’ for terminal
A desperate plan to speed up the opening of Berlin’s infamously over-budget, behind-schedule airport calls for the use of a “prefab metal box” in lieu of the much-anticipated but incomplete main terminal. Under the plan, Berlin-Brandenburg Airport (BER) could open in 2020.

BER Director Engelbert Lütke Daldrup, the fourth successive person in charge of rescuing the project, is mulling a “soft launch” of Berlin’s never-ending airport boondoggle, Deutsche Welle reports. Described as “BER Lite,” the gambit to salvage the long-overdue air hub is expected to be presented to the company’s supervisory board Friday.

The plan would see the airport utilize the two side wings and a temporary “extension” as a workaround solution while the central terminal, intricately designed by star architect Meinhard von Gerkan, is yet to be completed. The extension, however, dubbed “Terminal 1-E,” would not be even remotely that fancy as the unfinished main terminal. It will be constructed out of “industrial prefab” and effectively be a large metal box to hold the passengers, Spiegel reported.

The plan would shift the opening to mid-2020, according to Der Spiegel. "It is no longer possible to open it by 2019," one member of the supervisory board told the magazine.

This hope may still prove too optimistic – back in November, regulator TÜV found that outstanding issues with fire safety controls wouldn’t make launch possible till at least 2021.

Originally conceived as an elegant, modern transport hub that would replace two smaller airports located in the Berlin suburb of Tegel and the neighboring town of Schoenefeld, BER has become one of Germany’s longest-running jokes.

Construction on the airport began in 2006 as it was slated to open in 2012. Now more than six years behind schedule, the airport’s original budget of €2.5 billion ($2.98 billion) has since ballooned to €6.6 billion ($7.87 billion). The new “metal box” terminal is expected to cost “only” an additional €100 million ($117.5 million).

In November, the unfinished air hub’s safety systems were declared unfit for use. A German audit company revealed “faults and deficiencies” in the airport’s sprinkler systems, fire alarms and emergency lighting.

In a similar embarrassment, only 51 percent of BER’s automated doors were found to be fully functional, according to German media reports from July.

In 2015, some politicians mockingly suggested that the airport building should be demolished and a new one built from scratch. Since 2007, more than 1 million people have visited the “ghost airport,” paying about $15 for the privilege.

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