By David Eade
I am not one of those who believe that Gibraltar doesn’t need a new airport terminal. I don’t believe that a tarting up of the present building is what the Rock needs. However neither do I support the huge colossus currently being constructed that would do well as an additional terminal at Heathrow. There was a middle way and sadly the chief minister lost his direction.
It was pointed out to me the other day that when the new terminal opens it could well be two years behind its contractual inauguration date. That was meant to be April 2010 and my men and women on the runway tell me April 2012 is the most likely month for aircraft and passengers to be accepted.
Whether that is the case or not remains to be seen. However I do know that ever since construction was started I have been asking for an opening date and everybody has ducked the issue.
This is of course rather embarrassing for the chief minister who is the one person to give an opening date in my hearing. After the Tripartite Talks press conference last summer at the Rock Hotel he boasted to Spanish journalists that the terminal would be open this spring and it was up to Madrid to get its part of the building added whenever it could.
Now understandably he wants the terminal open for when he goes to the polls rather than it lurking on the horizon as a prominent reminder to voters of a project gone badly wrong. This could of course account for the delay in calling the general election but if he waits for the terminal to be finished he’ll be well past the allowable polling day.
Of course in Gibraltar you hear rumours all the time. One doing the rounds is that the chief minister had his photograph taken against an airport interior backdrop which was then dismantled as soon as he moved off. Look out for that one in a government brochure or GSD election leaflet coming your way soon. Another says the shops at the terminal have been ordered to have their stock in place for mid October for an official opening; they can then clear it again until the building opens to the public next spring. Somebody even told me there are 200 toilets; I guess one for every passenger and crew. At least you can sit down whilst you wait for the terminal to open.
There is one sobering thought for the GSLP Liberals if they win, as is widely expected, the forthcoming election. They will inherit a lot of the chief minister’s white elephants, failed schemes and government debt. As parties taking control of bankrupt town halls in Spain last May found out the financial chaos was now their problem and the voters would judge how they sorted it out and not blame the outgoing administration. If the GSD does fall then the date for the opening of the terminal will be one for the GSLP Liberals to deal with. Oh and let us not forget the fiasco over the long awaited airport tunnel.