Munich could become a German Heathrow if local opposition manages to block 3rd runway plans
John Stewart and some other campaigners recently visited Germany, to see the current protests against airport expansion there. John has written about their visit. He says campaigners are getting organised to oppose the planned building of a new 3rd runway at Munich. The case for a new runway there is weak because the existing runways are nowhere near capacity, most of the flights from Munich are domestic so could transfer to rail, and there is very low unemployment in the area. Visiting Frankfurt, they attended one of the regular Monday evening protests. The movement there driven by the concern about climate change, have brought together a first-rate coalition of environmental activists, local residents, sympathetic politicians and academic experts. They are a considerable force to be reckoned with.
Munich: ‘The German Heathrow’
by John Stewart, Chair of HACAN and of AirportWatch
Munich could become the German Heathrow. There is a fighting chance that the protesters against the proposed third runway at Munich could match the success of the campaigners who successfully defeated plans for a third runway at Heathrow.
If the Munich campaigners do triumph, it will reinforce the message sent out by the famous Heathrow victory that it has become increasingly difficult to build new runways or new airports anywhere in Europe.
The German authorities have been shocked by the scale and ferocity of the protests that have been taking place in Frankfurt (right) since Chancellor Angela Merkel opened the fourth runway in October.
Every Monday evening up to 5,000 local residents occupy the terminal in protest against the impacts of the new runway. They are particularly angry at the way they believe they were misled about the new flight paths and the noise of the planes.
I addressed the rally at the end of February. Rarely, in over thirty years of campaigning, have I experienced such raw emotion.
The protests in Germany have spread to other cities.
On 24th March there will be a national day of action. In France, too, there are real signs that new airports are becoming near impossible to build. In autumn 2011, thousands of campaigners against the proposed new airport outside Nantes took to the streets of Paris in protest against the plans. I believe they will stop the plans.
There are clear signs in Munich too that the campaigners have every chance of success. Along with Dan Glass of Plane Stupid and Tamsin Omond of Climate Rush – both networks which played an important role in the Heathrow success – I visited the Munich campaigners at the end of February.
“There are clear signs that the campaigners against the third runway in Munich could match the success of the Heathrow campaigners”.
These are the reasons why I believe the Munich campaigners will be successful:
• There is a committed group of climate activists – co-ordinated by Young Friends of the Earth Bavaria – who have made links with local residents whose communities would be destroyed by new runway or whose lives would be damaged by the noise.
• They are supported by a number of politicians from most of the political parties.
• The case for the new runway is almost laughably weak
– The existing runways are nowhere near capacity. In order to fill the new runway, the airport will need to attract planes from other airports. It is a bit like building a school and then asking the population to make enough babies to fill it! It is thought that Lufthansa may view an additional runway as useful in case Frankfurt – its main base – becomes too congested
– The airport is justifying the billions of Euros of largely public money it would cost to build the new runway on the fact that it would reduce delays to passengers to 4 minutes (from 9 minutes), thus making the airport attractive to more people. It would be more cost-effective to buy Greece!
– There is no need for more jobs in the vicinity. The immediate area around the airport has the lowest rate of unemployment – 2.8% – in the whole of Germany. And Munich is already Germany’s richest city.
– Munich has the largest number of flights to domestic destinations of any German Airport – a lot of them could be transferred to rail.
• The campaigners are starting early. It will be some years before the runway could be started which gives them time to build up their campaign.
• The beginnings of an excellent campaign are already in place.
Young Friends of the Earth Bavaria, driven by the concern about climate change, have brought together a first-rate coalition of environmental activists, local residents, sympathetic politicians and academic experts.
Local residents, closest to the airport, whose community would be destroyed by the airport are producing very professional information about what will happen to them.
There is a strong local umbrella group, AufgeMUCkt, representing over 80 groups. In Freising, the town closest airport, as many as 800 local people hold a candle-lit procession every week, followed by a short outdoor church service, in the main square. They end by singing “we shall overcome”. A truly moving experience.
Given the power of the aviation industry, it is always a tough fight for campaigners, but the Munich campaigners intend to build on the success they already have had. Expect to see lively actions, flashmobs, a climate camp, peaceful direct action, a growing coalition and a serious challenge to the reasons given for building the new runway.
Munich now Europe’s 6th busiest airport, overtakingRome; decision on 3rd runway to be made in June
Date added:March 15, 2012
Munich airport is Lufthansa’s 2nd largest base inGermany afterFrankfurt. A third runway has been proposed for the airport and last week, a variety of supporters from across the political and business spectrum got together to promote the benefits of an additional runway. A decision is due in June as to whether the airport can proceed with its plans. Campaigners are getting organised to oppose the planned building of a new 3rd runway atMunich. The case for a new runway there is weak because the existing runways are nowhere near capacity, most of the flights fromMunich are domestic so could transfer to rail, and there is very low unemployment in the area.
More news and information on the Frankfurt protests (in English) at Frankfurt Airport