Economy

Advice: Limburg airport should focus on cargo

According to CDA prominent Pieter van Geel, this is the most widely supported vision of the future of the airport. At the request of the provincial government, Van Geel has investigated what can best be done with the airport.

Future

This year, the province has to make a decision about the future of the airport. Since 2019, it owns and operates MAA. The future has been hotly debated for years by supporters and opponents in South Limburg.

In addition to inconvenience for local residents, the airport also causes a cost item for the province of about 4 million euros per year. In the past six years, the province has invested about 60 million euros in tax money in the airport, the Volkskrant reported last week.

Both supporters and opponents of the airport were consulted for the investigation. This ensures that two possible future scenarios are immediately removed from the table, because one camp would never agree with the dream solution of the other camp. And so the airport will not close, but it will also not be able to grow unbridled.

Grow or not

That does not mean that growth is out of the question. As is already the case with Schiphol, Van Geel preaches the adage ‘growth must be earned’. If the nuisance for local residents is reduced, then, according to the parties he spoke to, there is room for growth.

For growth, demand is needed from companies that think they will fly (more) at MAA. It is very difficult to say whether that question exists, admits Van Geel. Cargo transport by air can shoot up and down sharply, which is also evident during the corona crisis. Moreover, competition in the region is fierce, with the airport of Liège, among others, nearby.

More space for cargo

Limburgers should therefore be given the space to entice companies to transport cargo from MAA. An important condition for this is the extension of the runway to 2,750 meters.

That should yield between 200,000 and 290,000 tons of freight by 2030. In 2019, 111,000 tonnes of cargo was handled, about 7 percent of the 1.57 million tonnes of cargo at Schiphol in that year.

Also passengers

In addition to cargo, the advice also keeps open the possibility of more passenger flights, despite the associated uncertainties. In recent years, charter airlines such as Ryanair, Corendon, Vueling and Wizz Air have started flying to and from South Limburg, but now you can only use the first two companies via MAA on the way to your beach holiday or city trip.

In 2019, the ambition was to reach 700,000 passengers per year by 2025, in Van Geel’s advice there is a maximum of 750,000 in 2030. In 2019, 434,000 people flew via MAA, a fraction of the 71.7 million passengers at Schiphol that year.

Less nuisance

In order to grow at all, the nuisance for local residents must be reduced. At the moment, about 5,600 local residents have ‘serious nuisance’. That number must be reduced by 6 percent by 2030 to 5,250.

According to Van Geel, this can be achieved through cleaner and quieter aircraft and a flight ban between 11 pm and 7 am. Incidentally, no replacement types are available for many aircraft with which freight is transported, according to an additional study by the To70 agency, which is enclosed with Van Geel’s advice.

Van Geel’s advice will be submitted by the Provincial Executive, the executive committee of the province, to the representatives of the Provincial Council. Ultimately, this year a decision must be taken about the future of the airport.

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