Erdogan opens new Istanbul Airport, planned to be world’s largest

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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan center, along with other officials inaugurates the new airport in Istanbul. (AP)
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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and foreign dignitaries attend an inauguration ceremony for a new aviation hub in Istanbu. (AP)
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Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan drives a car as he inaugurates a new aviation hub in Istanbul. (AP)
Updated 30 October 2018
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Erdogan opens new Istanbul Airport, planned to be world’s largest

  • Erdogan opened a new $11.7 bn airport outside Istanbul
  • The airport will be able to handle 90 mn passengers a year and can be expanded to accommodate as many as 200 mn

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday opened Istanbul’s new international airport, which his government says will eventually become the world’s largest.
“The new airport will be the pride of our country and an example to the world,” Erdogan said at a lavish opening ceremony featuring several heads of state.
At the inauguration — which coincided with the 95th anniversary of modern Turkey’s founding by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk — Erdogan also revealed that the airport would be named “Istanbul.”
“Istanbul is not only our biggest city but also the most valuable trademark of our country,” he said.
The airport, one of a number of mega-projects built under Erdogan’s rule, will be little used until next year after construction was marred by delays and a workers’ strike over poor conditions.
Erdogan has championed the 10.5-billion euro ($12-billion) project in his bid to make Istanbul a global travel hub linking Europe, Asia and Africa and turn flag carrier Turkish Airlines into an aviation giant.
But the airport will only offer flights to five destinations until an expanded opening on December 29, from when it is expected to handle up to 90 million passengers a year, rising to up to 200 million when all facilities are completed in 2028.
That would be nearly double the 103.9 million passengers moving through the world’s current busiest airport, Hartsfield-Jackson in the US city of Atlanta.
The opening ceremony was attended by several leaders including Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borisov and Sudanese President Omar Al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of genocide and war crimes.
The first flight from the new facility will be to the capital Ankara on Wednesday.
It had been thought the new facility would replace the city’s aging Ataturk Airport, but Erdogan said it would remain in service, including for events such as air shows, adding that its unused parts would be transformed into a “national park as promised.”
Planes and equipment are expected to be moved from Ataturk to the new facility for the expanded launch in late December.
“Ataturk Airport will continue to serve with the same name,” he added.
Erdogan called the new airport a “giant,” with officials saying that its 1.4 million-square meter terminal building was eight times larger than Ankara’s terminal.
“Moreover, 80 Eiffel Towers could be constructed with the steel of 640,000 tons used in the construction.”
When finished in 2028, it will have six runways and two terminals spread over 76 square kilometers (29 square miles). That would make it three times the size of Ataturk.
Authorities say a metro line will be built to link the airport, which is near the Black Sea coast on the European side of Istanbul, to the city center 35 kilometers (22 miles) away.
The airport will be one of the crowning jewels in Erdogan’s bid to transform Turkey’s infrastructure in time for the country’s centenary in 2023.
Other massive projects include a third bridge over the Bosphorus Strait connecting Istanbul’s Europe and Asia sides, opened in 2016, and a man-made canal to relieve pressure on the strait.
However critics have blasted Erdogan’s mega-projects as excessive and damaging to the environment, and the airport’s construction was hit by controversy.
Last month, hundreds of workers walked off the job to protest poor conditions and work-related deaths on the site.
Turkish authorities quickly cracked down, arresting hundreds, according to labor unions. Most were released without charge, but around 20 remain in prison.
Thirty workers have died on the site since construction began in 2015, according to Istanbul airport authorities. The unions say the real number is much higher.
Construction Union Insaat-Is announced on Twitter that another worker died from a fall on Sunday, just one day before the inauguration.
In his speech, Erdogan thanked the workers.


Iran to cap petrol sales to curb smuggling

Updated 10 min 55 sec ago
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Iran to cap petrol sales to curb smuggling

  • Iran has some of the most heavily subsidized petrol in the world
  • Fuel cards were first introduced in 2007 with a view to reforming the expensive subsidies system
TEHRAN: Iran is reintroducing fuel cards that will cap petrol purchases in a bid to combat rampant smuggling, state media reported on Tuesday.
Smuggling has boomed in recent months as the rial has plummeted against the dollar in the face of the reimposition of crippling US sanctions following Washington’s withdrawal from a landmark 2015 nuclear deal between major powers and Tehran.
The Islamic republic has some of the most heavily subsidized petrol in the world, with a pump price of around $0.08 per liter (less than two US cents per gallon).
Low fuel prices have led to high consumption, with Iran’s 80 million population buying an average of 90 million liters (20 million gallons) per day, according to state news agency IRNA.
They have also fueled very high levels of smuggling — estimated at around 10 to 20 million liters (2.2 million — 4.5 million gallons) per day, IRNA said.
Much of it heads across the border to Pakistan, where petrol costs 10 times, and diesel around 40 times, as much as in Iran.
Fuel cards were first introduced in 2007 with a view to reforming the expensive subsidies system. High limits were set — 180 liters (40 gallons) per day for the average driver — since the focus was on curbing large-scale smuggling.
The state-run National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company said drivers would have three weeks to register for the new electronic cards setting a daily limit on petrol purchases.
The limit has not yet been set, but was introduced “in order to prevent fuel smuggling,” the firm said in a statement on Monday.
It said the return to a card system “does not mean there will be fuel rationing and price hikes.”
But Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh has said a price increase may be necessary in the coming year — a move that remains highly sensitive in a country that boasts the world’s second-largest reserves of gas and fourth-largest of oil.