An image used by Science magazine to argue against the sense of installing a busy passenger terminal alongside an important birding wetland (https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abe4325)
An image used by Science magazine to argue against the sense of installing a busy passenger terminal alongside an important birding wetland (https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/science.abe4325)

Ultimate location for new Lisbon airport ‘still up in the air’ 

In spite of Independent Technical Commission’s ‘exhaustive study’, no one seems able to agree

Within hours of the presentation last week on the best venues for a new Lisbon airport, ‘all hell had broken loose’: major commercial players, like ANA airports authority, low cost airline Ryanair, were saying ‘enough is enough! The only sensible option is Montijo…’

And political movers and shakers, with whom the ultimate decision lies, were vacillating: Pedro Nuno Santos (some say the favourite to lead the PS Socialist party into elections in March) used to be a champion of Montijo, but now, reportedly, “favours Alcochete”. Luís Montenegro, the head of PSD social democrats gunning to ring the changes for his party at the ballot box, is leaning towards Montijo, while José Luís Carneiro (Pedro Nuno Santos’ adversary in the looming elections for PS secretary-general) is also said to be fixed on Montijo.

All of this simply adds to the exasperation of technical folk, like engineers and environmentalists, who have all concluded that Montijo is a terrible option: it has a short life span, its location, next door to an important birding wetland, makes collisions with birds a hazardous inevitability, and then there are all the ‘public health consequences’ of having yet another busy air terminal in the middle of a densely populated urban sprawl.

As the Independent Technical Commission accepts, its decision that Alcochete is the best option all round is only its decision: the ultimate decision will be political, said the presentation blurb. Pundits have suggested even this is incorrect: the ultimate decision will be ‘legal’, as it is infinitesimally tied up in the current contract the State has with ANA Airports Authority (and ‘money talks’).

Talking of money, ANA insists the Montijo option will cost taxpayers “nothing”, while the Alcochete option will cost billions of euros and take years to come online. Montijo, says the entity, “is only 36 months away”… (The Independent Technical Commission’s arguments against Montijo include the fact that it offers almost nothing in terms of capacity for future expansion…) 

So, there we have it: another milestone in a decision-making process that is already 50 years overdue trampled to the extent that no-one can really see it clearly any more. 

What does seem to have emerged, perhaps, is that this long-drawn out Independent Technical Commission process has narrowed the field down to ‘either it’s Alcochete, or it’s Montijo’, admit commentators. But that is not, in the end, saying a great deal.

Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary is scathing: too much time has been wasted flying in circles already. It’s time to make a decision, and the only logical decision is Montijo…

And just to complicate matters further, the Order of Architects has recently said that there are very few companies, even on a global scale, that could actually take on an airport mega project of the kind envisaged by the Independent Technical Commission. This suggests the Montijo lobby may eventually win, irrespective of the environmental ‘downsides’. ND