Edition 22 March 2018, by Stephen Swai
The opening of the Lelystad Airport has been delayed from April 2019 until sometime in 2020. The news was communicated by the Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management Cora van Nieuwenhuizen. This comes after the plan for the April 2019 opening was met with a lot of resistance from the Lower House and Action Groups set up in Overijssel, Gelderland and Friesland, citing disturbance of peace and air pollution as major objections. It became clear that the survey on noise for the residents living near the Airport and along the flight routes was not carried out properly. The environmental impact assessment (EIA) on nature reserves of Weerribben-Wieden and the northern Veluwe presented was also lacking. The errors in the EAI were discovered by the HoogOverijss Action Group.
Furthermore, citizens felt that they were not involved in the process citing insufficient information from the government about key issues. All this prompted the cabinet to declare last year that they needed to make extra consultation. The news of the delay has been received positively by some stakeholders. The list included the chairman Jan Rooijakkers of Stichting HoogOverijssel, Eppo Bruins, Member of Parliament for the ChristenUnie, Jan Paternotte, Member of Parliament of D66 and Dion Graus, Member of Parliament for the PVV. However, other stakeholders were not happy with the delay. Schiphol who is the owner of the Lelystad Airport, the municipality of Lelystad and the province of Flevoland, all wanted the airport to be opened on April 2019. This new investment would have created new jobs in the Flevoland region.
Furthermore, KLM and various employers’ organizations wanted the airport to open as per schedule in order to give the Schiphol Airport space to grow. The Lelystad alderman Jop Fackeldey said earlier that companies were threatening to abandon their locations in Lelystad if the airport does not open on time.
Dirk Jan Verdoom, from the initiative group of Lelystad Airport said that, “numerous companies that have invested will not get the expected turnover due to the delay.” He was unhappy with the government inability to fulfill commitments. Lelystad was envisioned to deal with the yearly over capacity at Schiphol by focusing on holiday traffic thus giving Schiphol the space for distant flights. This meant that TUI Airlines and Corendon Airlines would be using Lelystad. However, the TUI Airlines has been against the move to Lelystad and has seen the delay as an opportunity to relook the distribution at Schiphol Airport. The Airline believes that the number of flights at Schiphol can be increased from 500,000 to 550,000 per year.
This analysis was in line with the views of the Netherlands Aerospace Center that said the growth wouldn’t increase the chances of accidents per year. TUI Airlines hasn’t been unhappy with the short length of the new runaway at Lelystad which will not accommodate the brand new Dreamliners. “That means we have to stay at Schiphol with these aircraft and we have to operate from two airports for maintenance,” said their spokesman Petra Kok. Corendon Airlines, the competitor of TUI Airlines, has also been unenthusiastic about the move to Lelystad. The Managing Director, Steven van der Heijden, cited the limited opening hours in the new airport which wouldn’t allow night flights. “It is precisely in the summer when we want to able to use our aircraft 22 hours a day but it won’t work at Lelystad,” he said.
The Managing Director added that it would be more expensive refueling aircrafts at Lelystad compared to Schiphol due to the fact that Lelystad will use tankers instead of a pipeline like Schiphol. Following the news of the postponement, Corendon Airlines felt that delay was another drama orchestrated by the government.