New chief named for Berlin's troubled airport project


A new chief was named Monday for Germany's most scandal-plagued infrastructure project -- Berlin's new airport -- which is five years behind schedule with no firm opening date in sight.

The BER airport was set to open in 2012 but has become a multi-billion-euro planning disaster and a running joke for Berliners, while tarnishing Germany's reputation for engineering prowess and punctuality.

The troubled project has sparked repeated spats between the capital city Berlin, its neighbouring state of Brandenburg and the federal government, as well as with architectural and engineering firms involved.

On Monday, Berlin state secretary Engelbert Luetke Daldrup, a city planning engineer, was named as the fourth chief tasked with running the more than decade-old project, the Berlin and Brandenburg governments announced.

He replaced Karsten Muehlenfeld, who had sparked criticism for his unilateral decision to fire, over the latest delays, construction manager Joerg Marks, who is now set to be reinstated.

Berlin mayor Michael Mueller, meanwhile, was due to leave his post at the helm of the supervisory board.

A Berlin politician of the far-left Linke party, Herbert Behrens, charged that sacking Muehlenfeld "could lead to more months of chaos".

The airport's construction, which started in 2006, has been plagued especially by flaws with the fire safety and smoke extraction systems, as well as problems with the roof of a terminal building.

Brandenburg state premier Dietmar Woidke said that, after the latest change at the top, all parties involved "must pull together -- in the same direction".