Officials react to court decision to halt Istanbul's third airport project

Turkish Airlines boss says to postpone the construction of a third airport in Istanbul is not right decision.

Turkish Airlines boss says to postpone the construction of a third airport in Istanbul is not right decision.

ISTANBUL - The Chairman of Turkey's flagship carrier Turkish Airlines (THY), Hamdi Topcu said that the decision to postpone construction of a third airport in Istanbul is not right decision, in a statement on Tuesday.

“It is not right to postpone the third airport project in Istanbul due to the court suspension of environmental report and the project must be done as soon as possible because Turkey needs it,” Topcu said.

The environmental assessment report by the Turkish Environment and Planning Ministry, into the impact of the construction of a planned third airport forIstanbul was suspended by an Istanbul court late on Monday.

The court suspended the report for technical reasons, saying the government did not wait the required ten days to issue a tender for the construction of the airport and that environmental concerns put forward by residents of nearby districts have not been addressed. It also said the court is awaiting more expert environmental analysis.

Istanbul's third airport is expected to become one of the biggest in the world and the biggest air transfer hub in Europe.

The chairman Topcu spoke to reporters at the opening ceremony of a new passenger lounge at Istanbul Airport: “the court decision is a legal decision. It is inappropriate to make comments on it. But I believe that our government and state will interfere and take measures to finish the project.”

“Istanbul is a vital transfer hub in the region with its geopolitical location, its political stand and its historical perspective," he said. “Istanbul will be more important with developments of Turkish civil aviation industry.”

He emphasized that it is for everybody's benefits in the region to have a big airport in Istanbul.

He added that the court decision would not affect Turkish Airlines' future plans since the decision is only to suspend for environmental reasons.

The airport is planning to have a total of six runways and eventually be able to handle 150 million passengers per year.

Seperately Turkish Environment Minister, Idris Gulluce said the court decision is based upon a factual error.

“The environment impact analysis report was approved by Istanbul Governor on the 30 April 2013 and it was open for discussion until 15 May 2013. It already past 12 business days after the approval (the law says it must be past 10 business days after the approval). We respect execution of the Court's judgment but there is a mistake of fact,” he said.

“No, it does not extend to one year. Nobody can reach an opinion that Turkey's famous project will be stopped. This airport must be done as its environment impact report was positive,” he said.

Turkey's transportation minister also said on Monday, an Istanbul court's decision to suspend an environmental report that approved the construction of a third airport in the city is a temporary suspension that will not interfere with the construction of the airport.

Turkey's Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications Minister Lutfi Elvan answered questions by reporters regarding the court's decision before joining AK Party's weekly meeting in the parliament.

“This was a decision only for the temporary suspension of the environmental impact approval report. That is not the case for the airport. In no way will it affect the construction of the airport," he said.

Turkey´s General Directorate of State Airports Authority on Tuesday morning also said the building of Istanbul´s third airport will go ahead.

Meanwhile, the Cengiz-Kolin-Limak-Mapa-Kalyon consortium of Turkish companies won a tender for the airport in May 2013, promising to pay the state 22.1 billion euros, in addition to taxes, for 25 years from 2017.

Today, with its nearly 15 million population, Istanbul is the most important historical, cultural, commercial and highly populated city of Turkey which attracts millions of tourists and business people each year.

As a global city and being a finance center, Istanbul hosts many of the Turkish companies’ headquarters and foreign companies’ liaison offices.

Istanbul hosts Turkey’s only securities market, the Istanbul Stock Exchange since 1986. In addition, most of the banks’ headquarters with at least 20 percent of their branches are located in the city.

Today, approximately one third of Turkey’s commercial flights and passenger traffic are generated from the existing two airports of Istanbul.

In the last 10 years, Turkey has experienced more than 20 percent yearly increases in both aircraft and passenger movements. Today, the rate of increase is about 10 percent.

In 2012, the commercial aircraft traffic of Ataturk Airport has increased 14.8 percent compared to 2011. It is very well known that Ataturk Airport has almost reached to its runway capacity, and there is no possibility for a new runway. Sabiha Gokcen Airport had no increase during this period, but second runway studies have already started.

According to Turkey´s top university METU´s aviation forecasts in 2010, in 20 years Istanbul airports' commercial aircraft traffic will exceed 1 million aircraft and 118 million passenger movements a year and cargo movements to 2.5 million if infrastructure is available.

Even if all necessary new facilities stated for Ataturk and Sabiha Gokcen Airports are done, the total passenger capacity will be limited to 100 million passengers per year.

However, the forecast studies project approximately 118 million passengers per year by 2030.

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