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Notre-Dame-des-Landes: it would take a miracle to make the project viable

Jean-Louis Baroux’s Chronicle


From working to not working, from protests to counter protests, from two steps forward and three steps back, we do not really know what is the current status of the Notre-Dame-des-Landes airport. The NDL initials will soon be as famous as those of PSG, for example.



Let’s look at the new Nantes airport. And ask ourselves for a moment what motivations can justify such a project. Is it the economy of the region? Frankly, who can believe that this new facility will give such boost that it will cause significant development - © Frédéric Massard - Fotolia.com
Let’s look at the new Nantes airport. And ask ourselves for a moment what motivations can justify such a project. Is it the economy of the region? Frankly, who can believe that this new facility will give such boost that it will cause significant development - © Frédéric Massard - Fotolia.com
Let us admit that in France, we are not only blessed with ideas, but we also witness acts of stubbornness that are not constructive.

“De quoi s’agit-il?” [“what is this all about” – translator’s note], as would say Maréchal Foch?

Let us acknowledge that it is interesting and economically viable to create a new airport in the far suburbs of Nantes, which could be widely used by the Rennes population and throughout the eastern part of Brittany.

Apart from the ecological issue, a topic on which I must confess my great ineptitude, there is the economic and financial side.

The projected investment would be around 600 million euros, but some estimates double this figure if we take in the necessary road improvements. And of course, once built, it will need to be maintained.

All this makes sense because, after all, a major airport is an important factor in urban planning.

The creation of the TGV trains, for example, has radically changed France’s geography but rightly so. Why then, would NDL not be a very profitable investment in the end?

The answer is probably in prospective traffic studies. The current airport, Nantes Atlantique, has a traffic of 3,632,000 passengers and 453,000 in Rennes.

Even when adding traffic the Lorient traffic (176,000 passengers), it still puts us well below 5,000,000 passengers, which in the world of air transport remains a very modest number.

But some will tell me, and rightfully so, that air traffic is in steady growth of 5% per year, mathematically resulting in a doubling every 12 years.

Yes, it is true, but not in Europe and especially not in France where, in general, traffic tends to stagnate because ground transportation has grown considerably.



A financial abyss?

So what is the new airport going to live on?

Are we not just creating a financial abyss like we experienced in the past with nuclear projects but also in aircraft construction and even in the creation of hub airports?

It was not so long ago, that we were in critical need to create a new large airport near Paris.

It seems that this project in the capital has become less urgent and for the better.

Let's face it, Paris does not need a new airport. The already existing infrastructure needs to be properly used as it can accommodate traffic of at least 150 million passengers, without increasing the noise level from where it is at today.

But this is another matter...

Let us return to the new Nantes airport. And ask ourselves for a moment what are the motivations for supporting such a project.

Is it the economy of the region? Frankly who can believe that this new facility will give a boost that will spur significant development?

Because we need to keep in mind, that for an airport to be used, it is necessary for airline officials to agree to serve it. Yet we are no longer in a state economy, or even less a planned economy.


Why so much stubborness?

Who is going to base their aircrafts there?

Will the requested operating carrier managers not have better options?

So if is not an economic issue, could it be a safety issue for people living near Nantes Atlantique?

If so, this would mean that flying over the southwest of Nantes is dangerous. Does this mean that the operating authorizations granted by the DGCA are inconsistent and that officials of this respected institution are irrational? Who, in their right mind, would believe that?

So if this is not an economic or safety issue, what is left?

Exposure to noise? Yes, but first aircraft noise is constantly decreasing and, as I know, environmentalists themselves do not want the new airport.

So why such obstinacy? Is the French state so rich that it can put hundreds of millions of euros in such a controversial project? Why does the Prime Minister keep insisting?

Leading experts in the field such as Jacques Bankir, former CEO of Regional, former COO of Air France, and consultant to a major European broker Avico, are vehemently opposed to this waste of public funds and support that opposition with serious arguments.

Meanwhile, we do not even know how to finance Roissy Express!

Notre-Dame-des-Landes: it would take a miracle to make the project viable
Jean-Louis Baroux, is the former president of APG (Air Promotion Group) and the creator of the CAF (Cannes Airlines Forum) which became the World Air Forum.

Air Transportation Specialist, he signed at L'Archipel Publishers ''Compagnies Aériennes: la faillite du modèle” [“Airlines: A Bankruptcy Model” – translator’s note], a book that all tourism professionals should have read.

The copyrights will be donated to charity. It can be purchased at: www.editionsarchipel.com

Written by Jean-Louis Baroux translated by Joséphine Foucher the 07/03/2014
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