Airport. The promoter believes Santarém will be ready in 2029 and promises TAP “unlimited space”.

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The promoters of the construction of an airport in Santarém admit that they will go ahead with the project even if the Independent Technical Commission chooses another of the options under study. They point to a site with “unique characteristics”, such as its proximity to the A1 highway and the northern railway line.

The promoter of the Magellan 500 project, Carlos Brazão, believes that the airline will be a “TAP without limits” at the airport he proposes to build in Santarém, which could start operating in 2029.

“TAP will be very welcome to have its hub in Magellan 500. (…) TAP is going through a privatization process, this is public knowledge, and possibly it will be inserted in some group, but even if this does not happen, TAP will be very welcome in Magellan 500”, says Carlos Brazão, in an interview with Lusa.

Also because, he believes, TAP has a good strategic plan as a “hub” (rotating platform of flights), which, allied to the geographical location of the country and the possibility of Santarém being an airport with chances of growth, would give it even more strength.

“TAP has a good hub model, between Europe, South America and North America, with the great advantage that in the Magellan 500, if the business model is good, it can not stop at 108 planes. It can go up to 120, 130, 140 planes, it can be bigger and bigger, taking advantage of the location of Portugal. It will be a TAP without limits”, stressed the promoter of the Magellan 500.

The Magellan 500 takes its name from the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan, who became famous when he led the first circumnavigation of the globe just over 500 years ago.

Last week in New York, Lusa tried to ask the CEO of TAP if she had any indication that the privatization process would take into account the guarantee of the hub in Lisbon – after the Expresso newspaper recently stated that the state was prevented from imposing it in the privatization – and that this would be the company’s business model in Lisbon. The CEO, Christine Ourmières-Widener, only replied to Lusa that she was confident that the privatization “will guarantee all the interests of the country” and referred other questions to the government.

“Portugal’s geographical position is unique, it’s a hinge between Europe, Africa and what I call the three Americas. There’s a TAP report from the end of 2019 that says that Portugal’s location is on average 30 minutes flight time closer than the ‘mix’ of competing airports: 90 minutes to North America, 90 minutes to South America, and somewhere in between, one hour to Central America. So we have fantastic conditions to be a hub for airlines, especially for transatlantic traffic. Unique conditions,” says Carlos Brazão.

When asked when the Magellan 500 is expected to open the airport, Carlos Brazão said, “We rolled up our sleeves and started working as soon as possible, our estimate is 2029.

When asked if the deadline is getting tighter, as the Independent Technical Commission headed by Rosário Partidário, which is studying the location of the new airport, has until the end of the year to make a decision, the promoter of the Santarém Airport is confident.

Carlos Brazão
Carlos Brazão

“We estimate two to three years for the construction of our (airport). Just the construction. Just to have an idea, for example, of the ‘benchmarks’ in Europe: Athens took four years, but it has two runways; Oslo took four years and two months, but it also has two runways; and, if you want an extreme case, Istanbul, which started with four runways and was finished in three and a half years. The initial project in two or three years is perfectly feasible,” concludes Carlos Brazão.

Santarém promoters say they will go ahead even if the technical commission chooses another site

The promoters of the construction of an airport in Santarém admit that they will go ahead with the project even if the Independent Technical Commission chooses another of the options under study, a decision that will be announced once the conclusion of the strategic analysis is known.

“If the project in Santarém is not selected by the strategic analysis, we think the project is so good, so good, that the next day we will sit down, analyze it in terms of the choices that have been made, and then we will decide if we still propose to the entities, the public decision makers, if we still want to go forward or not,” said Carlos Brazão.

However, this decision will only be made after the election of the Independent Technical Commission for the Airport, chaired by Rosário Partidário, which is carrying out the Strategic Environmental Assessment and has until the end of the year to propose to the government a solution for expanding the airport’s capacity.

For the promoters, Santarém has been identified as a location with “unique characteristics” for the implementation of an airport, due to its proximity to the A1 highway and the northern railway line that connects Lisbon to Porto.

“Moreover, the A1 is not a single highway, since it goes north to Coimbra and Leiria, and then it forks off to the A23, to Torres Novas, Castelo Branco, Covilhã, until the exit to Vilar Formoso; Then, going down, after half a dozen kilometers, it branches off to the A15, to the whole western region – Caldas da Rainha, Peniche, Ericeira, Torres Vedras – and here, in the same place, it branches off to the east, to the A13; so, without going through Lisbon, you can go to the Setubal peninsula, to the Alentejo, to the south,” explains Carlos Brazão, a commercial aviation enthusiast who has made a career in information technology.

Defenders of the Magellan 500 also point to advantages such as the vast, “sparsely populated” area, which is not floodable because it is on a plateau surrounded by the Alviela and Tagus rivers, and the fact that it is a low-wind area.

“These are really unique conditions, to the point that we found the site – it took months and months of study and validation – because of the condition of the concession contract [between the state and ANA, which establishes an area within a radius of 75 kilometers [outside which there can be other concessions], but today, if they took that condition away from us, they have already asked us the question ‘would you have chosen a site closer to Lisbon?’ and the answer, for sure, would be ‘no,'” Carlos Brazão emphasized.

To the criticism of those who think that an airport 80 kilometers from Lisbon is too far away, the promoters reply that “what matters is time”, pointing out that it is possible to reach Lisbon in 30 minutes, which can be improved with the developments in the railways, as foreseen in the National Railway Plan.

“Airports are moving away because the square kilometers around cities no longer exist,” he pointed out, citing the example of Oslo, Norway, which is about 60 kilometers from the capital and can be reached in 22 minutes by rail shuttle.

In this sense, solutions are also being studied with the Barraqueiro Group so that the “shuttle” from Santarem to Lisbon, with a frequency of 15 minutes, can continue “through the Belt Line and distribute people in the Greater Lisbon area”, by connecting to the four metro lines that currently exist.

Another advantage pointed out by the promoters is the capacity to grow to three runways and 100 million passengers, which makes it possible to support a scenario in which it is decided in the future to close the Humberto Delgado airport and concentrate all movements in Santarém, although the model is to work as a complementary airport to Portela.

The Magellan 500 consortium also highlighted the “fantastic” collaboration with the municipal councils involved – Santarém, Golegã, Alcanena and Torres Noves – as well as with the intermunicipal communities (CIM), which could benefit from the creation of 820 direct jobs for one million passengers.

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