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Turkey plans six-runway airport hub 24 janvier 2013

Posted by Acturca in Economy / Economie, Istanbul, Middle East / Moyen Orient, Turkey / Turquie.
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Financial Times (UK) Thursday, January 24, 2013, p. 5

By Daniel Dombey in Ankara

Turkey has set out plans to build one of the world’s biggest airports, at a cost of more than $5bn, as it steps up its efforts to make Istanbul a global hub.

The project reflects competition with Gulf countries, which share many of Istanbul’s advantages as convenient locations for European, African and Asian routes.

Turkey will hold a tender in May to build and operate the city’s third airport near the Black Sea coast, Binali Yildirim, transport minister, said yesterday.

« Mehmet the conqueror began a new era by conquering Istanbul; now . . . Istanbul is opening the door to a new era of the future, » he said in a reference to Sultan Mehmet II, who captured Constantin-ople in 1453.

Several ambitious infrastructure projects are planned for Istanbul, such as a high-speed train to Ankara and a canal to bypass the Bosphorus strait. Mr Yildirim, who says the tender could bring in at least TL10bn ($5.6bn), claimed the six-runway airport’s planned final capacity of 150m passengers would make it the biggest in the world, surpassing Atlanta, through which about 90m travel each year.

The first stage, with a capacity of 90m passengers, would be completed in the next three-and-a-half years, he added.

The United Arab Emirates and Qatar are forging ahead with airport projects of their own, in tandem with the rapid expansion of Emirates and Qatar Airways. A passenger terminal in Dubai, with capacity of up to 160m passengers, is scheduled to open this year after many delays, while Doha has announced its own $15.5bn airport will open this year. Beijing says it is building a nine-runway airport with 130m-passenger capacity.

While the Istanbul project would not initially be as large, if completed it would still outstrip other airports on the European continent.

« Nothing in the European Union would come close to that, in terms of terminal capacity, » said Robert O’Meara at Airports Council International Europe.

The decision to go ahead with the project reflects capacity constraints on Turkish Airlines at its hub of Ataturk airport near the Marmara Sea.

The 49 per cent state-owned airline has stepped up its expansion in recent years, as Turkey has adopted a more assertive role on the world stage. It now flies to more than 200 cities in more than 90 countries – more than any other carrier, it says.

Mr Yildirim noted that Ataturk dealt with 45m passengers and 364,000 flights last year, while Sabiha Gokcen, the city’s second airport, had 15m passengers. « It is obvious a new airport is needed, » he said, adding it would help boost tourism as the country prepares its bid for the 2020 Olympics.

Critics have argued such projects are damaging the city’s environment and historical legacy.

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