New airport to be south of Lisbon  .jpg

New airport to be south of Lisbon  


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AFTER DOZENS of studies, months of prevarication and heated debate, the government has accepted that Alcochete, on the south bank of the River Tejo, is the best option for Lisbon’s new international airport.

The decision was announced on January 10 because, in the words of the Prime Minister José Sócrates, “the country needs to move forward”. It comes six months after preparatory work for the construction of the airport NAL, Novo Aeroporto de Lisboa, at Ota was suspended at the request of the National Civil Engineering Laboratory (LNEC), which demanded independent comparative studies of the two sites.

The decision has been made on the basis of “two vital aspects”, said José Sócrates during a government cabinet meeting, Conselho de Ministros, air traffic operational safety and the environment.

Alcochete has four key points in its favour according to an LNEC commissioned study whereas Ota has three points in its favour. “From an environmental point of view, there is not one critical factor that is being called into question by this decision, unlike what some people think,” said the Prime Minister.

José Sócrates said that the LNEC report conclusions demonstrated sufficient evidence that both sites were “viable and sustainable”, but admitted that out of seven critical factors that could influence the eventual decision, most fell down on the side of Alcochete, a site also favoured by the President of the Republic, Cavaco Silva, because it is cheaper.


Among the factors in favour of Alcochete were environmental considerations, weather factors (the land is dryer and not subject to low lying fog and flooding), greater air traffic capacity, proximity to Lisbon, sustainability of natural resources, and advantages in terms of economic and social development and cost.

In order for the airport to be built at Ota, the land would have to be drained, piles would have to be driven into the ground and the land filled in and artificially raised. Although José Sócrates didn’t say it outright, Ota won out over issues such as nature and biodiversity conservation.

Alcochete, on the south bank of the Tejo, is perilously near to protected wetlands which sustain a number of birds and aquatic plants which environmental groups such as Quercus are keen to see preserved. The environmental group came to blows with José Sócrates, when Minister for the Environment during the government of António Guterres, over the building of Europe’s largest factory outlet shopping park Freeport because it endangered the protected wetlands and species within the Tejo Estuary Natural Park.

Now that the government has made its decision, the third bridge over the Tejo with rail links will be built between Barreiro and Chelas.

José Sócrates said that the final decision had not been “financial” given that the costs were similar, with Alcochete having a slight advantage over Ota.

News of the government’s decision in favour of Alcochete caused instant property speculation with properties close to the projected airport site soaring by between 15 and 25 per cent in 24 hours.

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