Thursday, February 2, 2012


We all have to play the hand we are dealt. Hence for the new Gibraltar Government they are saddled with a vast new air terminal, a large ditch where there is meant to be a traffic tunnel, the commitments of various contracts and probably compensation payments too.
However it could all be for nothing. The prime mover behind the new airport terminal abutting the border was the Tripartite Accord. Caruana agreed to build a new terminal by the border and re-route the traffic for the sole purpose of having a Spanish terminal abutting it and in those days we even spoke fondly of flights from the Rock to Madrid and Barcelona.
Now we have a new Partido Popular government in Madrid and one of its first acts was on relations with Gibraltar. The Tripartite process has been cancelled and the new foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo is not seeking a day out with Picardo and Hague at the top of the Rock but nitty gritty haggling in Brussels with his British counterpart whilst the chief minister sits in the corridor.
Well it’s not going to happen: Britain has been clear enough about that. So is the Spanish airport terminal going to happen either? PSOE made a great song and dance about it having to proceed with the terminal and hence needing La Línea’s land because it was obliged to build it because of its international treaty obligations.
Rajoy and García-Margallo have torn up the Tripartite – Cordoba agreements: they are as dead as the proverbial Dodo. So if you were sitting in Madrid what would you do? You have torn up the accord; you need every euro you can get your hands on; you are going to get tough with Gibraltar and there are no flights from Spain to the Rock. Hence the pretence that Gibraltar’s airport is La Línea’s airport is not worth persevering with. So would you spend millions of euros building a terminal when travellers can do as they do now and walk across the border.
If it was me I’d scrap the plans (if they ever existed because nobody I have spoken to has ever seen them) and have a good belly laugh as the new Gibraltar Government grapples with running a terminal that it is never going to have the passengers to fill it.
I am one of those who believe Gibraltar needed a new terminal but as Dr Joseph Garcia continuously pointed out whilst in Opposition the model to follow was that created at Southend Airport in Essex and not the Caruana Gin Palace. It would have cost millions less and be better geared to meet Gibraltar’s needs.
However Spain may have dealt the Government a good card. Caruana made it clear at a press conference after the 2010 low level trilateral that the airport was a Gibraltarian project and would be operational in the Spring of 2011 whether Spain had its terminal or not.
Of course that simply wasn’t true. The location of the terminal at the border was to give access to the La Línea terminal and in addition there was much talk of how the adjacent freight facility would be alongside with part of it actually located across the border. Although this had many implications on sovereignty, the border and employment technicalities it was seized upon by the Campo de Gibraltar as creating jobs for Spaniards, which indeed it would have.
This is presumably now a dead project along with the La Línea terminal. If that is the case it means the new government can look at the airport purely with regard to the needs of Gibraltar. Any freight element will be inside our side of the fence and the beneficiaries in investment and jobs will be Gibraltarian. Indeed perhaps rather than creating a freight terminal part of it can be housed in the Gin Palace.
SOUTHEND V GIBRALTAR: Projects to make London Southend Airport a fully functioning international gateway by the 2012 Olympics are well underway. A new Control Tower is now operational, as is the new airport railway station. London Southend Airport’s new passenger terminal will be completed in the coming months, as will its runway extension and new Holiday Inn hotel. On landing, passengers with hand luggage will be able to process through to the train station platform in just 15 minutes from the aircraft doors opening. The airport is targeting a security process with a maximum four-minute waiting time. The Stobbart Group has invested £60million on a new control tower with state-of-the art radar, a runway extension, a new terminal building and the railway station. The budget for Gibraltar’s new terminal alone is 67 million euros and rising!