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Airports given new 50-year operating licences

The airports must pay for soundproofing in homes of residents living nearby Keystone

Switzerland's main airports at Zurich and Geneva have had their operating licences extended for 50 years. The cabinet awarded the concessions on Wednesday, but at the same time, announced that the airports would have to limit noise levels.

This content was published on May 30, 2001 - 16:14

The cabinet extended the licences despite protests from communities in the vicinity of Zurich airport, which have long complained about noise pollution. They had argued that only provisional licences should be awarded, and for much shorter periods.

Responding to those complaints, the cabinet laid down new limits on noise caused by the airports, reducing the permitted level from 65 to 60 decibels during the day, and from 55 to 50 late at night in the early hours of the morning. A flight ban between 2400 and 0500 remains in place.

The new noise limits mean that the airports will have to pay for soundproof windows for some 55,000 homes near the two airports. The government estimates that this will cost some SFr300 million ($169 million), with Zurich paying the lion's share of SFr221 million.

In addition, the airports will have to put aside some SFr2 billion to cover compensation for residents whose properties may lose value as a result of their close proximity to the airport. Included in the measures is a ban on the building of new homes in the vicinity.

The costs will ultimately be borne by passengers because the airports have been given the go-ahead to levy a noise tax on plane tickets. The government has calculated that a tax of SFr7 per ticket would enable the airports to raise the required sum within 15 years.

swissinfo with agencies

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