Barcelona airport expansion agreed by Catalan and Spanish governments
Controversial €1.7 billion plan to make Josep Tarradellas an international hub will go ahead despite environmental concerns
The governments of Catalonia and Spain reached a deal on Monday to move forward with the expansion of the Barcelona airport with a mammoth €1.7bn investment plan.
The agreement was hailed as "great news" by the Spanish government spokesperson, Isabel Rodríguez, which she said will help the Josep Tarradellas-El Prat airport become a global hub.
Spanish officials estimate that the infrastructure plan will create 83,000 direct jobs and another 365,000 indirect jobs, and will help boost economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.
Barcelona airport has seen a huge growth in the past couple of decades, with passenger numbers increasing from around 17.5 million in 1999 to almost 53 million in 2019, making it the 6th busiest airport in Europe.
The deal has greenlighted the expansion plan proposed by the company that manages the airport, Aena, which wants to build a new satellite terminal and extend one of the existing runways.
The plan also foresees connecting the Barcelona - El Prat airport with those of Girona and Reus, in the north and south of Catalonia, respectively, through a high-speed railway.
Criticism of the plan
The plan ignited a heated debate in Catalonia: the business community is very much in favor of the expansion, but there is fervent opposition to the plan from environmentalists warning against the destruction of the Llobregat delta and increased carbon emissions.
Catalan vice president Jordi Puigneró said in an interview on Tuesday that the government was committed to building "the greenest airport in Europe" and that the environmental impact would be kept at the "minimum."
The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, accused both governments of acting "secretly" and urged them to put the plan on hold and resume talks with grassroots groups.
Local environmentalist groups called a protest for September 19 and denounced the planned expansion as "illegal and unnecessary", and obeying the interests of "mass tourism."
Greenpeace described the plan as an "environmental attack" and accused the governments of Catalonia and Spain of being "incoherent" with their commitment to reduce carbon emissions.
We recently examined the debate over the expansion of the airport on our weekly podcast. Have a listen here: