Maribor airport to be turned into smart hub

Ljubljana/Hoče- Infrastructure Minister Jernej Vrtovec has presented in parliament a new vision for the Maribor airport that has not been operating for a while. He told MPs this week that he had been working with local mayors on plans to turn the airport into a smart hub by the end of the year.

Responding to a question from MP Lidija Divjak Mirnik from the opposition Marjan Šarec List (LMŠ), Vrtovec said the idea for a modern multimodal cargo logistic centre had come from the current operator of the airport, the state-owned consulting and engineering company DRI.

He said he had presented the plan to Maribor Mayor Saša Arsenovič last week and to Hoče Mayor Marko Soršak three weeks ago. He is scheduled to meet several local mayors in the coming days and then MPs from the region in two weeks.

“If anyone thinks the airport will live based on strategies presented so far they are wrong. So far it has not,” Vrtovec said, adding that handing over the facilities to DRI had been only a temporary solution.

While refusing to go into more detail about the plan, the minister said he first wanted support of local officials.

If backed by the local community, Vrtovec will present the proposal to the government and start working to not only expand the airport’s runway but also to build a rail link between the airport and the Magna car company in the Hoče-Slivnica municipality.

According to Vrtovec, the plans for the 400 hectares of land include building a modern logistic centre, the biggest in Slovenia, that would also serve as an important inland warehouse for port operator Luka Koper.

“The Maribor area has an extraordinary logistic opportunity to develop such activities and we must take advantage of this,” said the minister, who is still in talks with potential investors.

He expects a letter of intent to be signed by the end of the year, and in the meantime efforts would be made for changes to the national spatial plan. Next year, an international architectural competition would be held for the project.

Vrtovec said initiatives for investments had come from two countries but that they need to be handled carefully. In the past, Chinese investors had made big plans for the airport but then backed out, he said. Disputes with them are still under way for a part of real estate.

The mayor of Hoče, Soršak, told the STA he had been acquainted with Vrtovec’s plans and fully supported them.

DRI is to run the airport until the end of the year, but this period may be extended.