The Portuguese government will drop the Strategic Environmental Assessment tender, won by a consortium with a Spanish company, and wants to speed up alternatives to the current Lisbon Airport.
The government has already decided about the new Lisbon airport. It will scrap the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) tender won by a consortium with a Spanish state-owned company and will launch a new one with a new ‘agenda’: To proceeding immediately with the construction of the complementary airport in Montijo – with only one runway – and to start working on a new airport in Alcochete to replace current one located in Lisbon within 10 to 15 years.
The prime minister has already said publicly that he wants to reach an understanding with the Social Democratic Party (PSD), and with the new leader, Luís Montenegro, to decide. “For me it’s what the opposition decides,” António Costa said. “There are studies for all tastes, there are great arguments for all. All that remains is to decide and do it,” he said. Later, the Minister of Infrastructure, Pedro Nuno Santos, signalled that decisions need to be made in the short term because Lisbon airport may have to refuse flights as early as next year. “It is important that we work on a good consensus and a suitable solution that allows us to quickly expand the [airport] capacity of the country,” he noted. He added that in the following days he would announce decisions about the new airport.
According to two sources familiar with the dossier, one of the decisions has already been taken politically: The government will cancel the SEA tender that had been won by an international consortium composed of Portuguese engineering company COBA and Ingeniería Y Economía Del Transporte – INECO, as ECO reported. The latter is owned by the Spanish state, via four public companies, and operates under the Ministry of Transport, Mobility and Urban Agenda. Pedro Nuno Santos admitted “doubts” and “concerns” because it is a company controlled by the Spanish state. The jury of the competition did not see any problems, but the political problem is considered to be insurmountable.
The SEA that was launched would evaluate three alternative possibilities: Humberto Delgado as the main infrastructure and Montijo as complementary; Montijo with the progressive status of main airport and Alcochete. But the government has already been convinced of the impossibility of Montijo having over one runway for environmental reasons, and, on the other hand, wants to speed up the process to overcome the constraints of the current airport to support an increase in tourists. And it also wants Montijo’s complementary runway to be in operation still in this legislature.
Officially, the Ministry of Infrastructure refuses to make any comment and reserves any updates for later, but in this context, the government will launch a new tender to carry out in-depth environmental impact studies of the two possibilities, but preliminary studies anticipate that Montijo’s solution with only one runway will be viable and this will allow diverting ‘low cost’ flights from Humberto Delgado Airport, freeing the growth of more flights/hour of ‘flag’ companies and medium and long haul flights. And it will have to negotiate with ANA – the airport concessionaire – the works for the development of the new Alcochete airport which will eventually replace the current infrastructure at Portela, in central Lisbon.
The prime minister has given signs that he wants a political agreement with the new PSD leader – who will be formally elected this weekend at congress, after winning the direct elections. However, Luís Montenegro has already signalled that the decision is up to António Costa’s government.