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Poland is planning to replace Warsaw Chopin airport with a mega-airport to rival Munich's or Moscow's and accommodate 45 million passengers a year. Zosia Wąsik reports.

Passengers who are used to changing flights in Frankfurt or London might need to get ready for a new interconnection destination: the Polish village of Baranów.

Poland is building a new aviation hub from scratch, the so-called Central Airport. By 2027, the new investment will have replaced the Warsaw Chopin airport, the biggest hub in Poland today, which is still too small to process an increasing number of passengers.

“The capacity of airports around Warsaw undoubtedly has to be extended. Chopin Airport is almost exhausted and it cannot be expanded any further because of the environmental constraints and the lack of space,” says Dominik Sipiński, an aviation analyst.

The new project is also considered a symbol of national pride. The leading Polish ministers have repeatedly declared that a country as big as Poland “deserves to have a mega-airport”. Development minister Mateusz Morawiecki called the future project “the beating heart of Poland”.

Bigger than Munich

The Central Airport will accommodate 45 million passengers annually, according to the government plan, which is 32.2 million more than the existing airfield. This capacity will make it the largest airport in central eastern Europe, bigger than the hubs in Munich and Moscow. The airport will be constructed on an 11,4000 hectare area located in Baranów, between Warsaw and Łódź, Poland’s second biggest city.

Even if the construction of the new hub is in the heart of the strategy published by the Polish government in November, the document includes much more than just an airport. It outlines the development of major infrastructural projects across the country in the next 20 years. In the first stage, all new investments will cost 31-35bn zloty (£6.5-7.3bn).  

The new airport is going to be connected to Warsaw and Łódź by a fast train. This will create a central point of Polish railway - the government is planning to build a total of 889 km of new lines around the country, which will allow passengers to commute to the airport from every corner of Poland in less than three hours.

The plan also includes expanding the existing motorway that connects two cities and national roads from nearby towns, and an Airport City office area. There is also an idea to turn an airport into a station stop for underground transportation or the Hyperloop.

Mr Sipinski calls governmental plans “ambitious”, especially the railway network. “The realisation of these plans by 2027 might be impossible. The plan is lacking clear priorities that have to be achieved to give this project a chance to succeed,” he says.

Competition for design

Regardless of these doubts, the project should attract the attention of international investors. Mikolaj Wild, the minister responsible for the project, says that in the upcoming months, the government will focus on the planning issues.

“We will announce competition for architectonic design of the airport and the Airport City. The scale of this undertaking will require us to take advantage of experiences of international companies that are able to realise mega-projects globally, especially when it comes to designing, constructing and management,” he adds.

Mr Wild says they have not started to promote the project yet but they are already observing growing interest from international investors, especially from the UK, France, Turkey, China, Korea, Germany and the US. He adds that he is also expecting many companies to open their offices in the area around the airport. According to the government plan, first tenders for technical projects should start early next year. Bids for the airport construction are planned to commence in autumn 2019.

This article is sourced from fDi Magazine
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