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The controversial plan to expand the Barcelona-El Prat airport by means of a new runway built on a platform above the sea will also be included in the proposals to be studied by the working group set up by the major business association Foment del Treball to present the airport operator Aena and the Catalan government with a plan that will guarantee the competitiveness of the infrastructure.

The sea platform project, designed by a group of engineers, economists and other professionals led by engineer Joaquim Coello, has been incorporated into the Foment options. This, despite the employers association being among the first to warn that building a runway almost a mile out to sea from the existing airport, on a platform 10 metres above the sea, would be more expensive than has been estimated (around 2.2 billion euros) and would have a serious environmental impact.

The president of the Foment committee, Lluís Moreno, has specified that so far his group has received or compiled a total of nine "clearly differentiated" projects, among which there are some proposals from public administrations as well as various private initiatives. And, therefore, the plan for the sea platform runway, "is one more". The alternatives can be divided into three groups: extending the third runway, in line with what has been proposed up until now by the airport opeator, Aena; building a marine platform, as proposed by the group led by Coello; or changing the current runway operation without expanding the infrastructure, so far rejected by the public administrations because of the noise nuisance it would generate to residents in Gavà and Castelldefels.

Foment president Josep Sánchez-Llibre and working group leader Lluís Moreno. | Miquel Vera ACN

The working group, made up of professionals from different areas and economic and social organizations, aims to deliver a document that will take into account the opinion of more than 30 people who will present technical and environmental opinions on the feasibility of extending the El Prat airport runways.

Five million extra travellers

Foment backs the expansion and wants to generate the necessary consensus between the Catalan government and Aena to complete it as soon as possible. The president of the employers' association, Josep Sánchez-Llibre, says that the technical commission to study the project - which the governing ERC committed to along with the PSC, as part of the deal for the Generalitat budget - will be called togther after the municipal elections: "Everything makes me think that it will be in September", he says. Sánchez-Llibre asserts that he wants to see the emergence of the "the greenest, most ecological, most sustainable and most efficient option in order to achieve consensus of all parties and the support of the public." "We must make possible the continuity of the airport infrastructure so that Barcelona maintains its international leadership", he specified and stated that "when the administrations can't agree, civil society must step in. I am convinced that we will design an appropriate roadmap."

According to Foment, the expansion of El Prat must make it easier for the facilities to be able to absorb the five million extra travellers who, according to Aena, had to arrive at another airport in 2019, and to allow Barcelona to jump from its current total of 40 international connections to around 80. In 2021, an expansion proposal based on extending one of the current runways into the Ricarda lagoon provoked considerable public opposition and divided the Catalan government, before being dropped by the Spanish government - which owns the airport facility.