The chief executive of Istanbul’s airport says a planning error led to the metro train line, currently being constructed, having a station 300 meters from the airport, instead of in the airport.
Haberturk newspaper columnist Fatih Altayli wrote in his column citing Istanbul Grand Airport (IGA) CEO Kadri Samsunlu as saying a planning error had led to the problem.
Altayli also cited the Samsunlu as saying it is no longer possible to connect the metro station and the airport with a tunnel due to the structural statics of the airport terminal.
Instead, the connection between the metro station and the IGA might be carried out via electric or autonomous vehicles, Samsunlu added.
When the columnist mentioned the complaints by the passengers having to walk long distances for connecting flights, Samsunlu said they had bought buggies to carry them inside the terminal buildings.
“We are aware [of the problem]. We also plan to get them [buggies] specially manufactured for us. When needed, we will carry those passengers from one flight to another,” the executive said.
Samsunlu emphasized that they are motivated with criticism for airport-related problems.
In January, during the rail-welding ceremony for the new metro line connecting the megacity of Istanbul to the IGA, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said they had not neglected the transportation issue while building the IGA.
Erdogan also said at the time that the transportation between the IGA and Istanbul’s Gayrettepe would be Turkey’s fastest metro line, operating at 120 kilometers per hour.
In 2017, the Turkish Court of Accounts (Sayistay), an authority responsible for performing audits, trials, and guidance in order to contribute to accountability and fiscal transparency in the public sector, published a report, harshly criticizing the tender method of the ministry for the construction the metro line.
The Sayistay said the ministry had preferred an exceptionally used tender method which is normally applicable under unforeseen situations such as natural disasters.
The Sayistay report said the need for mass transportation to the airport cannot be regarded as an unforeseen situation. The tender method was therefore anti-competitive, according to the auditing authority.
The Sayistay also said at the time that the ministry had not taken into account its previous 2016 report which touched upon the same unlawful practices in the tenders for consultancy services of the metro project.
A similar planning problem regarding the IGA project had been revealed by a lawmaker from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) last year in August.
The CHP MP Ilhami Ozcan Aygun said in a parliamentary question to Transport and Infrastructure Minister Mehmet Cahit Turhan that the IGA does not have heating systems in its ground strips to prevent icing.
The MP asked what measures had been taken to prevent accidents during take-off, landing and taxiing at the airport.
In the ministry’s response, the minister confirmed that the strips had been completed and put into service without having heating systems. That was because such systems had not been previously envisaged in the tender specifications.
The minister added at the time that the airport had accordingly required equipment and teams to fill the gap created by the lack of heating system, referring to snow removal vehicles.
CHP’s Aygun later slammed the ministry as they did not envisage such an important necessity before the construction phase, instead, were preferring primitive methods against icing.
According to critics, significant technical deficiencies are due to an approach by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government which wanted to put the IGA into operation in a hurry on October 29, 2018, Turkey’s Republic Day.
Bahadır Altan, a senior pilot who had flown with Turkish Airlines and Pegasus Airlines, claimed that the AKP government, particularly Erdogan, shut their eyes to the deaths of workers for the sake of completion of the IGA before the inauguration ceremony on that date.
Some resources claimed that around 400 workers were killed during the construction of IGA’s construction. The airport project kicked off in 2015.
The AKP government first denied the allegation, saying only 27 workers died, however later, admitting that “at least 52 workers” have died on the site.
At the time, Ali Seker, another CHP MP, harshly criticized the AKP, saying it was using the IGA on every occasion to get more votes and to gain more popularity among the public.
The IGA, an $11 billion project, is described by the Turkish Airlines (THY), the Turkish flag carrier, as Erdogan’s pet project.
The president is the “originator behind the idea of the monumental project and its biggest supporter”, according to the THY.
The Cengiz-Kolin-Limak-Mapa-Kalyon Consortium, a joint venture of Turkish companies close to Erdogan, won the tender.
The project has also been at the center of criticism for its environment-related impacts. The IGA is located in the northern forest area which is of great importance for Istanbul’s ecological sustainability.