Big Story 10

Polish hub airport, road and infrastructure to cost up to $9.8 billion: draft document

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland’s planned hub airport and accompanying road and railway improvements are likely to cost up to 34.9 billion zlotys ($9.8 billion), a draft document published by the government’s office on Friday showed.

Government ministers in March recommended building a new airport in central Poland that would begin operations in a decade. The government is expected to formally approve the plan for the “Solidarity” airport in the coming days.

The planned airport is to be built near the village of Stanislawow in the Baranow district between the cities of Warsaw and Lodz, Mikolaj Wild, the government official responsible for its construction said this week.

The airport is one of the flagship infrastructure projects of the right-wing Law and Justice (PiS) government, which came to power in late 2015 and remains popular among many Poles despite its clashes with the European Union’s executive arm.

The plan envisages that the airport itself would cost 16 to 19 billion zlotys, the accompanying railway infrastructure would cost 8 to 9 billion zlotys, while new roads and highways 1.8 to 6.9 billion zlotys.

The plan also envisages that a new city could be built near the airport that could include business parks and a conference center capable of serving the central Europe region.

Experts have said that opening a new Polish hub airport would likely lead to the closure of several existing airports in central Poland. Some experts have said the new airport would struggle to become profitable and fill its capacity.

One of the main proponents of the project had been Polish state airline LOT [LOT.UL], which was saved from bankruptcy in 2012 by public aid, having struggled to compete against low-cost airlines such as Ryanair.

Ryanair, which has a roughly 30 percent share in the Polish market with a base at a small airport near Warsaw, warned the new airport could face the same fate as its German equivalent.

Berlin’s new airport, initially due to opened in 2011, has been beset by technical problems. It is currently scheduled to be completed in the second half of 2018.

Reporting by Marcin Goettig; Editing by Keith Weir