Plans for new Lisbon airport opposed by local authorities, and the Dutch (for harm to national bird, the godwit)
There are plans to construct a new airport for Lisbon (Portugal) as the existing airport – Humberto Delgado Airport – is considered by the authorities to be full. Plans have been considered for many years, but a new airport at existing Montijo military air base, near Lisbon, got approval on 8th January 2019 when the government signed an agreement with ANA – Aeroportos de Portugal (the country’s airports manager). The Montijos site is on the Tagus estuary, a nature reserve where the godwits, a threatened species, stop off on their way from Africa to the Netherlands. There is now considerable opposition from the Netherlands, where the godwit is seen as the national bird. The planned airport would devastate the areas where godwits feed, and many birds would be culled if the airport was built, for air passenger safety. There is now political controversy about the airport, as in Portuguese law, if local councils oppose a development, it is not permitted. The government wants to over-rule this ability, as various councils led by various political parties are blocking government plans. Due to costs, TAP Air Portugal, has firmly stated it would not move to the new airport.
Construction of new Lisbon airport threatened by municipal veto
By Carla Jorge
March 01, 2020 (Lusa – Agencia de Noticias de Portugal)
The start of work on the new Lisbon airport (Montijo airport) was scheduled for this year, but a law giving the local authorities involved the right to veto the project threatens to put a brake on the work.
The government has advocated a change in the law in recent days, which gives two PCP (communist) authorities the right to veto the project, while Prime Minister António Costa has already warned that abandoning the option for Montijo has very high costs.
However, the PSD (social democrats), the largest opposition party in a parliament in which no party has a majority, has already declared itself unwilling to change the law and parties such as the Left Bloc and the Livre have also indicated that they are against the change, which puts the project back in deadlock.
In 2019, after decades of debate over the best location for a second airport in the Lisbon region, Montijo’s project saw progress, with the issue of a favourable Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and the reorganization of military airspace. In addition, the government has included in the State Budget for this year, as an objective, the beginning of construction, continuing “this important” project and entering “its definitive implementation phase”.
The executive thus assumed “as a goal for 2020 the beginning of construction” of Montijo airport.
The project is the construction of a civil airport at Montijo Air Base No. 6 (BA6), in complement to the Lisbon airport, with the aim of distributing air traffic destined for the Lisbon region and connecting the A12 (the southern motorway) to the new airport.
A squadron from Sintra Air Base 1 to Beja was scheduled to move in the spring, allowing constraints in airspace management to be overcome, which will facilitate operation in Lisbon until the new airport is completed.
The agreement to expand Lisbon’s airport capacity, with an investment of €1.15 billion by 2028 to increase Lisbon’s current airport (Humberto Delgado airport) and transform Montijo’s air base into a new airport was signed on January 8, 2019, between ANA – Aeroportos de Portugal (the country’s airports manager) and the State.
At the end of January this year, the Portuguese Environment Agency announced that the project had received a conditioned favourable decision in the Environmental Impact Statement, while maintaining around 160 measures of mitigation and compensation to which ANA “will have to comply”, which amount to around €48 million.
Comment by a local resident in Portugal:
The current law for approval of infrastructure in Portugal needs the consent of all affected local authorities. A handful of local authorities around the new airport area have rejected it so the airport can’t go ahead. The government is trying to change the law as it considers that a few local authorities can’t stop a project of national interest. Opposition to the left and right of the socialist government are against changing the law so interesting times.
I think this will be the airport that never happens… There are a couple of other alternatives with lower environmental impact that need to be considered. No one is yet talking about carbon emissions but it will come next. Watch this space.
Don’t kill our national bird: Dutch object to new Lisbon airport
By Catarina Demony, Victoria Waldersee (Reuters)
FEBRUARY 18, 2020
LISBON (Reuters) – Thousands of people in the Netherlands have signed a petition objecting to the construction of an airport in Portugal that could threaten the black-tailed godwit, the Dutch national bird.
The new airport will be located on the south bank of Lisbon’s Tagus estuary, a nature reserve where the godwits, a threatened species, stop off on their way from Africa to the Netherlands.“What is the point of protecting the godwits in the Netherlands if they are weakened or even die in Portugal?” says the petition, which has so far been signed by 26,000 people.
Portugal’s environment agency gave the green light for the airport in Montijo last month but said it must take steps to protect wildlife. The project has been heavily criticised by environmentalists at home and now abroad.
Vogelbescherming Nederland, the Dutch nature conservation organisation behind the petition, said the Tagus estuary is a vital feeding break for the godwits.
“They eat crop residues in the rice fields before they fly to our country to breed,” they said. “But if the Portuguese government gets its way, that will soon be over.”
Researchers also say birds are at risk of colliding with aircraft and will be driven away by noise.
Writing in Portuguese newspaper Publico, assistant secretary of state Alberto Souto de Miranda said people should not worry because “birds are not stupid and it is likely they will adapt”.
Thijs van der Otter, a spokesperson for Vogelbescherming Nederland, was unconvinced.
“That’s like cutting down a forest and saying it’ll find somewhere else to grow,” he told Reuters. “Life isn’t that simple.”
There is a petition, in Portuguese here, that people can sign against it. https://peticaopublica.com/?pi=AeroportoMontIjoNAO
TAP Air Portugal Not Interested In New Lisbon Airport
by Joanna Bailey (Simple Flying)
February 3, 2020
Lisbon needs a second airport. In fact, it’s been desperate for more capacity since about 2018, when the existing airport was proclaimed ‘full’. Airport operator ANA Airports of Portugal has been working on a plan to annex an airbase in neighbouring Montijo as an overspill for the city. However, its likely biggest customer, TAP Air Portugal, has firmly stated it has no interest in moving to the new facility at all.
Talks of a second airport for Lisbon have been grinding along for more than five decades. Now, with the existing Humberto Delgado Airport experiencing something of a capacity crunch, ANA Airports of Portugal, the operators of the facility, are considering using a neighboring airbase to provide much-needed slots.
In fact, this idea was first floated way back in 2017, but has taken some time to develop into a solid idea. Last month, Lisbon’s second airport moved a step closer to becoming a reality, as the Portuguese Environmental Agency (APA) finally gave it the thumbs up. The caveat? Every airline will be charged a €4.50 ($5) ‘pollution bill’ as compensation for the airport’s construction.
ANA airports chief executive officer Thierry Ligonniere, Portuguese Finance State Secretary Ricardo Mourinho Felix, Portuguese Infrastructure Minster Pedro Marques and ANA Airports chairperson Jose Luis Arnaut sign an agreement between the Portuguese government and ANA airports for the expansion of the Lisbon airport to Montijo. Photo: Getty
However, it looks like ANA is on its own in footing the bill for the construction of the airport, as local airline TAP Portugal has said it is not interested in helping out. According to CAPA, the airline has said it has no interest in moving to the new airport, and therefore will not be co-financing the development in any way.
As long ago as October 2018, it was reported by Blue Swan that TAP would not be interested in using the new airport, even after it’s built. At the time, TAP’s CEO Antonoaldo Neves stated that using the new airport was not in line with TAP’s hub and spoke strategy. He said,
“I’m in favor of Montijo but don’t want to use it… I wish all the best for Montijo, as soon as possible.”
Mr. Neves supported the notion that Lisbon’s existing airport was completely exhausted of capacity, and that a new airport was needed urgently. However, he is clearly looking for TAP to remain, along with TAP Express, at the existing Humberto Delgado Airport instead of moving to the new one.
What’s happening with the new airport?
Montijo airbase is around 20km from the existing airport, and is out of town in terms of geography. Lisbon’s current airport is unable to expand from its footprint due to the proximity of residential and commercial districts. As such, Montijo would not only provide the capacity Portugal needs right now, but would also be a future-proofed solution, able to expand more in the future as needed.
It was originally earmarked to be open for business from 2022 onwards. Originally, it was thought that it would be a replacement for Humberto Delgado, with all airlines moving there. However, the rapid rise in tourism to Portugal has meant this is no longer an option. Now, the new airport will work in tandem with the existing one, providing overflow capacity and acting as a hub for some airlines.
But which? With TAP clearly not keen to move its operations, who will use the new airport?
Well, just as low-cost carriers have moved out of Gatwick and Heathrow in favor of cheaper and less slot constricted London airports, so might they be encouraged to do so in Portugal. CAPA estimates 25% of seat capacity at Lisbon is on LCCs, with Ryanair leading the pack, followed by easyJet and Vueling.
In fact, Ryanair has been somewhat outspoken in its support for the new airport, with CEO Michael O’Leary even calling for ANA to be kicked off the project in order to get things moving. Back in 2017, Algarve Daily News reported him saying,
“Real competition will be good for the consumer. The problem is in the way airports in Portugal are organized. ANA is a monopoly, so there is no competition … Montijo is already there, there is a runway there, there are flights … and now ANA asks for an environmental study? Why? The track is there, it is not a nature reserve, it is already an airport. But it’s a way of delaying it all until 2021, so ANA can raise prices in Lisbon even higher and make even more money.”
Clearly, Ryanair will be one of the first airlines to move operations to Montijo once it finally opens. Could it become the low-cost hub for Portugal? Let us know in the comments.
New Lisbon airport gets green light from environment watchdog
OCTOBER 31, 2019
By Catarina Demony, Sergio Goncalves
LISBON (Reuters) – Portugal’s environmental agency has given the green light for a new airport in Lisbon, but only if the project meets certain conditions, including measures to reduce noise and protect wildlife.
Portugal’s booming tourism industry has complained for years about the lack of capacity at Lisbon’s Portela airport and a new airport at Montijo on the southern bank of the Tagus River was proposed as a hub for low-cost flights.
Plans for a new airport in Lisbon have been under consideration for five decades but the government has said the Montijo airport, where there is already a military air base, should be completed by 2022.
An environmental study, presented by Portugal’s airport authority ANA in July this year, highlighted a threat to wildlife from the new airport as the Tagus estuary is a nature reserve for various birds, including flamingos.
Last year, environmental organization Zero sent a complaint to the European Commission, insisting that a more demanding “strategic” environmental evaluation be carried out before the airport can be built.
In a ruling late on Wednesday, Portugal’s environmental agency gave its final go-ahead for the project on condition that measures are implemented to reduce its environmental impact.
French construction group Vinci, which owns ANA, the operator of Lisbon airport, in January said it would invest 1.15 billion euros ($1.32 billion) in the expansion of Lisbon’s main airport and the construction of the new one.
The entire project will be financed by the private sector, Vinci said when the agreement was announced, but no other companies have been named in connection with it.
The environmental agency, APA, has set out around 200 conditions for the project to “mitigate the negative impacts from the new airport on birdlife, noise and mobility.” These will cost some 48 million euros.
Some of the conditions include sound insulation requirements and restrictions on flights between midnight and 6 a.m.
Vinci’s ANA said in a statement: “ANA will analyze the feasibility, balance and environmental benefit of these measures.”
ANA’s study in July had made the case for the new airport at Montijo as the only viable solution for the Lisbon’s airport capacity issue.
Portugal’s tourism industry has had eight consecutive years of growth, which has helped the country recover from a severe debt crisis and economic recession of 2010-13.
Traffic at Lisbon’s existing airport increased by 8.9% in 2018 to 29 million passengers compared with the year before, according to Vinci.
If the project goes ahead, the new airport, around 25 km (15.5 miles) from Lisbon city center, is set to be one of the largest construction projects in Portugal.
With the long-term concession of ANA Aeroportos de Portugal to the French group Vinci Airports the project for a new airport was postponed in July 2013, and it was decided that the existing Lisbon Airport would be further upgraded to surpass 22 million passengers annually and would remain the present solution for this major European gateway. Ryanair had predicted that it will double the number of passengers it carries from the airport in the three years from 2014.
In January 2019, Portugal’s government unveiled a 1.1-billion-euro ($1.26 billion) plan to expand Lisbon’s current airport and build a second one. National airports operator ANA is footing the bill to adapt a military airfield in Montijo, 30 km (19 mi) by road from Lisbon. It aims to handle around 50 million passengers a year from 2022. The airports company will also pay for the expansion of the Humberto Delgado Airport in the capital. With around 29 million passengers a year, it is at full capacity.