Thursday, 3 November 2011

New airport opens today

GIBRALTAR (GibChronicle / F.Oliva) Gibraltar’s breathtaking new E76m Air Terminal was opened for a press viewing yesterday ahead of guided tours for the public starting this morning. A striking example of modern architecture with a spacious and spectacular interior, it has been described by experts as “a symbolic encapsulation of what Gibraltar stands for today.” The impressive steel and glass building is destined to become a famous man-made landmark right beside one of the world’s most famous views: the north face of the Rock of Gibraltar.>>>

There are still works pending at the Air Terminal with several parts such as the general aviation wing for private aeroplanes and the cargo area awaiting completion.

The current contract sum for the finalised works that includes the roads outside and the forecourts is E76m. The final cost of the project is not yet known.

Mr Caruana also explained that the migration from the old terminal to the new will be gradual to ensure the airport’s operational capacity to keep receiving flights and manage the difficulties in transferring the computer and security systems together with personnel while this process is carried out.

With the enhanced security, it is expected that additional security personnel will be recruited.

Questions from Spanish media
In answer to Spanish press questions, Mr Caruana said Gibraltar remained open to receiving flights from the mainland noting that attempts to date had failed primarily because they were initiated at the height of the worst economic downturn in the post-war era, and also because the times schedule was not practical, useful nor convenient for people on both sides of the border.

“When these problems are rectified I think this airport will become the airport for Gibraltar and the Campo and a transport facility that will be important for the whole area.”

He said it would be logical to think that flights to and from Spain will be resumed and the Gibraltar Government will do everything in its power to ensure this.

Mr Caruana stated that the critical point in enabling the expansion of the local air industry with increased flights and destinations was not the terminal but the remaining tunnel underneath the airstrip.

He added that until this piece of infrastructure was inaugurated, they would not be encouraging airlines to seek to fly to Gibraltar even with the new air terminal functioning, given the traffic collapse that ensues across Gibraltar every time a plane lands in the airport.

Mr Caruana said this would be avoided with the tunnel which will mean that traffic flow will no longer need to be interrupted when a plane lands.

“We are in close contact with many airlines that have expressed an interest to fly from Gibraltar but we are not prepared to facilitate more flights which would have an added negative effect on local traffic flow.

Delays on the Spanish side
As regards the delays on the Spanish side, which is not really a delay but the fact that not a single brick has yet been laid, Mr Caruana reiterated that Gibraltar had kept to its side of the bargain, and had now received the benefits of the Cordoba Agreement with Spain lifting all the suspension clauses it had imposed on air flight directives to the Rock leading to the normalisation of the local airport for EU purposes.

“We have obtained the benefits agreed in the accord. The length of time the Spanish works take in something which is primarily for the benefit of Spanish citizens is a matter for the Spanish authorities.”

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