Saturday, 8 June 2013

Murcia Airport

The 'Will it or won't it open?' question still remains unanswered.  I am referring to the new airport at Corvera, Murcia.  It is built, the new roads are finished, the runway lighting is in place, even the signposts are up, approach flight paths decided and, we are told, the necessary licences have been granted.  The only things missing are passengers and planes.

The latest twist, according to Murcia Today reports, is that Ramon Luis Valcarcel, the President of the regional government, has rescinded the contract to run the airport with the concessionary who built it.  The airport was built using private money but with a 200 million euro guarantee on the loan by the regional Murcia government.  The concessionary has no money left to fund the running of the airport.  Talks with Aena, who manage the state run airport system, have resulted in a tentative agreement that Aena are prepared to run Corvera, but unsurprisingly, there are complications.

When the military airport at San Javier opened to the public to cash-in on tourism and the property boom, both of which had up until then predominantly by-passed Murcia, Aena invested heavily in facilities, constructing the terminal building, the control tower and a second runway, investment totalling 70 million euros.  The plan back then was to keep these facilities in use when Corvera opened, but provision was made that should the military want the airport back for exclusive use then they would 'buy' the facilities built by Aena.  The plan to run two airports just 20 minutes drive apart in a region with limited demand for international travel, and still only an hour from one of Spain's busiest international and tourist destination airports, Alicante, was flawed from the outset, with wildly optimist predictions on passenger numbers.

Now Aena are saying, if reports are to be believed, that they will run Corvera instead of San Javier, it raises two major questions.  Who is going to compensate the concessionary for the loss of ability to see a return for their investment in Corvera?  And who will compensate Aena for their investment in San Javier?  The regional government of Murcia does not have 200 million euros to repay the loan it guaranteed.  The military are not interested in buying the facilities for 70 million euros at San Javier.  It seems that once again, despite all the meetings and debate, the stalemate remains.  If there is anything we can be sure about it is surely that Corvera Airport is not, as widely publicised, opening in 2013.