BERLIN (AP) — For a country that prides itself on efficiency and punctuality, the saga of Berlin's new airport, whose opening was delayed for a fourth time on Monday, has become something of a national joke and source of embarrassment for Germany.
The mayor of the capital city, Klaus Wowereit, said managers for the new Willy Brandt airport have determined that it's no longer possible to open on Oct. 27. He insisted it wasn't yet possible to give a new date, but the delay means the capital's airport won't be opened until 2014 at the earliest — about three years later than originally planned.
The state and national governments that hold stakes in the airport were informed last week of "major problems" with the project's fire safety system and other technical features, Transport Ministry spokesman Sebastian Rudolph said.
The airport, one of the country's biggest infrastructure projects, is supposed to replace the city's two aging and increasingly cramped airports, Tegel and Schoenefeld, which served West and East Berlin respectively during Germany's Cold War division.
It was first scheduled to open in late 2011, then delayed to June 2012. That date was abandoned only a few weeks before the airport was due to open; the inauguration was put back to March 2013, and then postponed again to October.
Costs have already more than doubled to €4.4 billion ($5.8 billion). Postponing the opening again will lead to additional costs, the Transport Ministry's Rudolph acknowledged.
The project has embarrassed local politicians in Berlin and Brandenburg, the state that surrounds the capital and is the site for the new airport. The two states together own a majority in the airport's management company.
In Germany, a nation with a reputation for planning, engineering and financial discipline, the continuing delays to the airport's opening has become the butt of jokes. Berlin's center-left mayor Wowereit — a deputy chairman of the country's main opposition Social Democrats — has faced criticism for what opponents view as an overly relaxed attitude to the apparent management and planning failures.
Wowereit faced calls from opponents Monday to step down. He said he had no intention of resigning as mayor — but announced that he would hand over his job as chairman of the airport operator's supervisory board to Matthias Platzeck, the governor of Brandenburg state, where the airport is located.