It’s mind-blowing how regional authorities in most countries very often make a hash of big projects that land them in the loss of millions, without obviously batting an eyelid, all because of a proper lack of research in the first place.
Inefficiency has become endemic when enthusiasts for an idea cloud the commercial viability when times of prosperity loom.
A case in point is Spain’s ‘ghost airport’, which cost hundreds of millions of Euros to build and which became a symbol of the excesses of the bonanza years, and has just been sold to a Chinese group for £7,000.
Ciudad Real airport, in the central Castilla-Mancha region, has been closed since 2012 despite being opened for only four years. The regional authorities raised an estimated £700,000 in private investments to build it, hoping it would draw millions of visitors each year to the area, known as the home of Miguel de Cervantes’ fictional knight, Don Quixote.
But the airport soon became a quixotic venture, drawing just thirty-three thousand travellers in 2010. The airport was put on sale for £55 million, but there were no takers before the 10th July deadline.
The purchaser is now China’s Tzaneen International, a group of investors, which said it planned to invest up to £70 million in the airport, declaring that: ‘Chinese companies are interested in making it their main point of entry into Europe.’ The deal includes the landing strip, hangars, the control-tower and other buildings. But the terminal and parking facilities are not part of the sale.
Controversy surrounded the airport before its completion, with local authorities saying it would be known as ‘Madrid South Airport’ despite being one hundred and twenty-five miles from the capital. Initially, Ryanair was the only carrier to use it.
If I know the Chinese, they will certainly turn the airport into a lucrative business proposition and show us how to meet a challenge head on. Happily, we in the West will perhaps learn a trick or two from the Chinese modus operandi – Hallelujah!