Minister determined to open Lelystad airport on schedule, despite opposition

Minister Cora van Nieuwenhuizen of Infrastructure is determined to open Lelystad airport on April 1st, 2019, despite opposition parties and surrounding residents asking for postponement. "The opening on 1 April 2019 remains the target", she said during a parliamentary debate on Tuesday, reports.

Opposition parties in the Tweede Kamer, the lower house of Dutch parliament, wants Dutch airspace to first be reorganized. They want to postpone the opening of Lelystad airport until that is done. Local residents also advised Van Nieuwenhuizen to postpone the opening - advice the Minister asked for herself. The local residents fear that the current plans will result in too much noise pollution. 

But postponing the opening of an airport is not an easy task, Van Niewenhuizen said, according to the newspaper. "You can't just move it on a month, you work in half years." Postponing the opening of the airport now will mean that Lelystad will open in the winter, which will not work. So in the end the opening will have to be postponed for a year, and the cabinet wants to avoid that. "That is the underlying reason that we put maximum effort into achieving the planned date." Reorganizing the airspace first will take a lot of time, which will mean that the opening in April 2019 will almost certainly not be achieved. 

The opposition parties' and local residents' concerns stem from mistakes that were made in the Environmental Impact Assessment. GroenLinks and SP, among others, want a completely new report drawn up. Van Nieuwenhuizen said that the mistakes make her "extremely uncomfortable", but she will not start over from scratch. Instead the EIA will be updated. After that definitive plans can be made about the flight paths. Van Nieuwenhuizen expects to make these definitive plans in March next year.

The Minister promised to keep involved parties, including local residents, informed every step of the way. Because it was in the communication surrounding the construction of the new airport that the biggest mistakes were made, she said. "That led to unrest and worries. We have to do it differently."

The plan is for Lelystad Airport to eventually take over some of Schiphol Airport's flights, to relieve pressure on the busy Amsterdam airport. Schiphol is already very close to reaching its 500 thousand flight movements per year limit, which is in effect until 2020. Lelystad Airport will mainly handle holiday flights to European destinations, so that Schiphol can continue to focus on long-haul flights. This is important for Schiphol's international network, and for Dutch airline KLM's international position.