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Turkey starts work on huge new Istanbul airport

Foundation stone laid on $30bn airport to carry 90mn passengers

Istanbul
Istanbul

Turkey has begun construction of the third airport in Istanbul, which it aims to rival Dubai’s new Al Maktoum International as one of the largest in the world.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday laid the first stone for the $30bn project expected to open on October 29, 2017.

"Istanbul is marking a historic day. Turkey is marking a historic day. The biggest airport of the world and six continents is going to rise here," Erdogan said at a groundbreaking ceremony on Saturday.

"We are building not just an airport, but actually a monument of victory today.”

The airport is projected to handle an initial 90mn passengers a year, rising to 150mn when it becomes fully operational in 2018. There was a 20% increase in international passenger numbers at Istanbul’s existing airports last year.

Al Maktoum opened for passenger services in October last year and is expected to have a capacity of 160mn when it becomes fully operational some time during the next decade.

Dubai’s original airport already is the busiest international airport in the world, having taken over London’s Heathrow in the most recent quarters.

Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths told Arabian Business last year the Turkish airport would not impact on his plans.

“The aspiration in Turkey is slightly different from the Gulf,” Griffiths said.

“We see ourselves as an airport for the world, where we are facilitating the traffic coming through Dubai from North America to Australasia, from Japan to South Africa, from South America to India... we’re at the sort of cross roads to the world here and it’s long haul to long haul, essentially. Turkey’s aspirations are mostly about regional connectivity and being the sort of bridge between southern Europe, Eastern Europe, Western Europe and obviously the Gulf states etcetera.”

Erdogan's government has been frequently criticised for its ambitious construction plans for the city of 16mn, which also include a third bridge across the Bosphorus and a canal parallel to the international waterway to ease traffic congestion.

Environmentalists have protested against the new airport because it is being built in a heavily forested area near Terkos Lake, one of metropolitan Istanbul's six main drinking water reservoirs.

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