Friday, 4 November 2011

Gibraltar opposition asks if airport is worth it

GIBRALTAR (Panorama) The new air terminal may well be regarded by some as a beautiful and impressive building but unfortunately people are not being asked to judge an architectural competition. They are being asked to judge the policy of the GSD Government in this respect. The question that needs to be asked is whether the 75 million euros that it has cost could have been better spent on a smaller scale expansion, modernisation and redevelopment of the existing air terminal at a fraction of the cost, says the GSLP/Liberal opposition. They add: The choice therefore was not between the new air terminal and the old air terminal as it exists today but between the pharaonic monument that Mr Caruana has had built and a modernised, expanded and redeveloped existing terminal building. >>>

Mr Caruana has once again described the air terminal as a “vision” thing. It is significant to note that this is the same word that he used years ago to defend the huge expenditure on the Theatre Royal site and look at how that ended up. The problem with Mr Caruana and the GSD Government is that they have no difficulty in having expensive visions of this kind with other people’s money.

Moreover, a statement adds,the Government gives the impression that its description of the air terminal as a “vision” somehow exonerates them from proper scrutiny of its policy decision to construct and relocate a new air terminal next to the frontier fence. A “vision” is nothing more than a policy decision and it must stand up to public scrutiny in the same way.

Built at Madrid's request
The reality is that the decision to construct and relocate had nothing to do with visions or with planning for the future. A new terminal was constructed and relocated because the GSD Government entered into a political agreement with Spain which required this to be done. We have therefore built a new air terminal next to the frontier fence at the behest of the Spanish Government in Madrid for which the taxpayers of Gibraltar will foot the bill.

The GSLP/Liberals go on to say that it will be recalled that the Government announced in July 2008 that the contract for this project had been awarded to Dragados SA for 59 million euros. This provided for the completion of all the works by April 2010. The Government has now given the cost as 75 million euros. The Government have said in the past that this does not include the cost of the relocation of MOD and Gibraltar Government facilities which needed to be moved in order to make way for the new building and associated works. In 2010 these additional costs stood at nearly £12 million. It is obvious that if the old terminal had been expanded and not moved to the frontier fence then these relocation costs would not have been incurred.

Moreover, the Opposition has in the past compared the situation with that of London Southend, a small regional airport in Sussex. This has undergone a £60 million investment on a new control tower, a runway extension, a railway station and a new air terminal with a capacity to handle at least 700,000 passengers per year. In Gibraltar 75 million euros has barely bought us the terminal alone! There are serious questions of value for money that will be asked.

'Vast sums of money'
Commenting on the matter, Shadow Minister for Civil Aviation Dr Joseph Garcia said: “It is obvious that the scale of the development and its relocation are a matter of judgement and a matter of spending priorities. The GSD Government has taken a policy decision to spend vast sums of money on this project and we would have done things differently. However, the terminal is there and now any new Government that comes in after the general election will have to try to make it work.”

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