Poland’s deputy infrastructure minister Mikolaj Wild is overseeing the construction of a mega-airport that aspires to become Europe’s gateway to the east.
The Polish government plans for the project’s completion by June 2027. The formal decision to endorse the project was made in November 2017 and ratified by the parliament in May 2018. Criticism of the project abounds.
Developed over 3,000 hectares, the Central Airport (CPL) will be situated between Warsaw and Lodz and will be the biggest infrastructural investment in Polish history. The project is projected to cost €16.5bn and handle 45 million passengers a year, scalable to 100 million.
It will be known as “Solidarity Airport” and there wil be second to none in Eastern Europe.
Fully developed, CPL aspires to rival in size Heathrow. Not unlike Heathrow, the project is at the epicentre of political controversy.
The Polish vision is to carve out for Warsaw a bigger share in the ever-growing market of European aviation, making Poland a nodal point for Europe’s connection to the US, the Middle East and the Far-East.
The growth momentum is undeniable. Since 2000, Warsaw has seen its share of the aviation market surge from 3.5 to 10.5 million passengers a year. Still, many question the project’s economic viability.
Industry experts do not expect the EU to contribute to the airport’s development, DW reports. In fact, there could be serious opposition to its development. The European Commission closely monitors airport projects to ensure compliance with State aid rules 2014/C99/03), and large airports must meet the private investor test.
However, the Polish government claims there is Chinese, South Korean and Singaporean interest in investing in the project. During a 2017 visit to China, Wild suggested that CPL may be incorporated in the Belt and Road (OBOR) initiative. To date, there is no Chinese commitment.
The Polish opposition wants the expansion of the existing Chopin airport and investment in the multi-modal links of the existing infrastructure, including highway railway connections.
The main concern is that CPL will cause major socioeconomic disruption.
The project will mean that Warsaw’s existing Chopin Airport will close and a number of regional airports could end being obsolete. Similar objections have been raised for Heathrow Airport, with one Conservative MP resigning in 2017 when Theresa May’s first cabinet committed to a third runway.
However, unlike Heathrow, the CPL project does not seem to have the backing of major market players. Although the chief executive of the Polish national carrier LOT supports the CPL project, companies with a bigger marker share disagree. Low cost carriers Ryanair and Wizz Air oppose it, fearing it would increase their costs and eat into their margins.