When representatives of the airport operator Fraport lead journalists through the construction site of Terminal 3, one superlative follows the next.

The largest privately financed construction site in Europe, the largest commercially used multi-storey car park in Europe, a roof structure the size of several football fields, a driverless train that takes passengers from the long-distance train station to the new terminal at up to 80 kilometers per hour.

And the bottom line is projected construction costs of four billion euros.

That is also great in Europe.

It could all be so nice if the coronavirus hadn't thwarted the development of air traffic.

But none of this is noticeable on the construction site.

On the contrary: by the end of next year, up to 3,000 workers will be working on the huge construction site next to the A5 motorway, as well as several hundred engineers, site managers and Fraport employees.

Because the airport operator's hope rests on the year 2026. By then, air traffic should have recovered and reached the pre-Corona level.

Then the third terminal will be needed at the latest, says construction manager Christian Bierend during the tour.

New building is mothballed

Most of the construction is to be completed earlier and will be “mothballed” so that it can be put into operation quickly if necessary.

This point in time could, at least for the autonomously operated FlugsteigG, be before the year 2026.

That depends on the development of the number of passengers at Frankfurt Airport.

In the coming year, the first parts of the new terminal will be handed over to Fraport and test operations will begin.

The multi-storey car park with 8,500 parking spaces on nine floors should also be ready in 2022.

The construction companies then initially use a good 2000 parking spaces for their staff.

The new building will also have an impact on Terminal 1. A station is currently being built for the airport railway, which will largely be on stilts, but also at ground level along the A5, connecting Terminal 1 and the long-distance train station with the new terminal building. A number of these supports already show the future route. This train can transport up to 4,000 people per hour in each direction. A two-minute cycle is planned so that nobody has to wait long. The new train station is currently being built between Terminal 1 and the hotel opposite. It will be around one hundred meters long and rests on 22 concrete pillars that are around 13 meters high. To do this, the traffic routing in front of Terminal 1 must be changed. The railway should also be operational by 2026. Should the G-bolt go into operation earlier at the new terminal,shuttle buses would initially take passengers to the new terminal. The existing airport tram will continue to operate after the new one opens.

"Always straight ahead to the plane"

According to the client, Fraport, around half of the companies that operate at the airport come from the region.

Every day they build an amount of concrete that would fill up to 5,000 bathtubs.

According to site manager Bierend, the entire construction site is as big as a hundred football fields, and the finished terminal could hold around 25 football fields.

The remaining space is used to store the prefabricated parts ordered in advance at the construction site.

Much is being produced months earlier, which should make Fraport largely independent of delivery bottlenecks and the associated price increases and shortages of raw materials.

If everything goes smoothly and more people actually want to fly again in a few years' time, the new terminal will handle up to 19 million passengers a year from 2026 onwards. If things go even better than predicted, there is an option to expand to up to 25 million passengers. Despite the size of the terminal, they should be easy to find their way around. “Always straight ahead to the plane” was the specification for the planners, recalls Bierend. There will be no wrong turns like in Terminal 1 in the new building, the paths are clearly structured. The site manager promises that there will be no getting lost.

Currently everything is concentrated on the assembly of the mighty roof structure, which is delivered in small parts and assembled on the construction site. Five elements, each almost the size of a soccer field, are then lifted onto an auxiliary structure with special cranes and pushed from there on rails over the shell of the main building. The construction would then be sealed and the interior work could begin. In order to develop the new terminal, around ten kilometers of new roads will be built, including a new motorway junction at Zeppelinheim, for which the forest has already been cleared.