“No time or money” to investigate alternatives to Montijo as Lisbon’s second airport

New threat looms over Montijo following April Fool’s ‘hoax’

Following the embarrassing April Fool’s hoax which announced the shelving of controversial plans to site a busy passenger terminal in Montijo – alongside one of southern Europe’s most important birding wetlands – a new threat has settled over the horizon as a result of Covid-19.

ANA airports parent company, French group Vinci, has announced that it wants to reduce costs and delay investments “in all countries”.

Looking at this another way, the April Fool’s hoax wasn’t so far from the truth (click here).

Admits Jornal Económico, the project for a complementary airport to Lisbon’s Humberto Delgado “could be one of the casualties”.

Indeed, the online claims Vinci is already ‘negotiating’ its plans for investments with the governments in countries in which it has airports.

Seeking clarification from the Ministry of Infrastructures and Habitation, JE claims to have received the ‘laconic declaration’ that ANA has not asked the government “for any kind of delay to investments underway or planned”.

But the online stresses this ‘has to be on the table’ bearing in mind the evolution of the pandemic and the fact that no-one knows how long it will last, nor how intense things will become.

As for Vinci, “the damages caused by the pandemic are already visible”. Company bosses admitted last week that they were not going to be able to achieve objectives for 2020. A general assembly, planned for April 9, has been suspended, with no alternative date yet announced.

If it was just a question of ‘walking away’ from investment plans, the future might look manageable. But JE explains that the legal maze tieing ANA and the Portuguese State together over Montijo “has become very difficult to understand or explain”, according to various specialists in the sector ‘who prefer to remain anonymous’. It’s such a tangle says the online that “even some lawyers lose track of the thread…”

On paper, the ‘must-have’ (in the government’s eyes) Montijo concourse was going to involve an investment of 600 million euros, rising to 1.3 billion taking into account restructuring work planned for Humberto Delgado (click here).There have been a series of contracts and concession agreements binding the parties together for years into the future.

Say the experts the one ‘saving grace’ for ANA/Vinci is that the context of a pandemic is actually one of the conditions they can use to wriggle out of their ‘obligations’, be these for investment in Montijo or indeed Humberto Delgado.

JE’s ‘expert sources’ have actually mooted the possibility that Vinci could lose so much income as a result of this crisis that it could request a bailout from the Portuguese State. But that is “an extreme hypothesis”, says the online.

Covid-19 and its effects are not even the only cloud on Montijo’s horizon. There are numerous court actions attempting to block construction of the airport and a massive wall of civic opposition, particularly from two local boroughs which still hold the power of veto (click here).

ANA airports authority meantime has presented its workforce with various options, including ‘time off without pay’, the chance to take ‘early holidays’, a three month reduced work schedule and salary reductions.

Writing to the workforce on March 31, CEO Thierry Ligonnière admitted that the measures being brought in were “probably insufficient” to protect jobs unless there is a full recovery of business in the short-term.

natasha.donn@algarveresident.com