GREAT EXPECTATIONS

Turkey 2020 | TRANSPORT | INTERVIEW

Turkish transit and aviation ambitions go beyond being a mere global hub; before long its also seeks to develop its own world-class aircraft.

Mehmet Cahit Turhan
BIOGRAPHY

Mehmet Cahit Turhan has been the Minister of Transport and Infrastructure since 2018. He previously served as CEO of the construction consortium for the North Marmara Highway and was a senior advisor to the Presidency and a member of the Council of State. Turan also worked for the General Directorate of Highways as an engineer, controller, and director, and later as the Director General of Highways from 2005 to 2015. He graduated from Karadeniz Technical University's department of civil engineering in 1981 and received his master's from the same university.

What are the primary commercial benefits of the newly opened, 426km-long highway project between Istanbul and Izmir?
This project affects the region since it is considered the backbone of the national economy and is where approximately one-third of the population lives. It also makes a significant contribution to commercial activities as well as solving problems such as road safety, emissions, and traffic. The route passes through Istanbul, Yalova, Bursa, Balıkesir, and Manisa, paving the way for new investments in the region.

What is the significance of the new Istanbul Airport for Turkey and the broader region?
Istanbul Airport will satisfy the needs of not just Istanbul and Turkey, but also the greater region. This project will also raise Istanbul to its deserved position in the international airline market and make the country a major center and a bridge among nations. Turkey's commercial aviation industry has grown considerably in recent years, and the growth potential will gain greater momentum when Istanbul Airport, one of the largest in the world, reaches full capacity.

What are the ministry's development plans for nationwide port infrastructure?
We are currently in the top 20 in terms of maritime transportation and shipbuilding, and Turkey's overall maritime trade fleet is 29 million DWT. Our national shipbuilding industry has also been successful in commercial shipbuilding and maintenance and nationally designed and 100% domestically built warships, and is one of the top three industries globally for yacht building. We currently have 175 port facilities open to international vessels, though we have considerable investments ongoing in order to increase our maritime trade volume. Çandarlı container port in the north Aegean Sea will be Turkey's biggest port and one of few container ports around the world. We planned this facility as a hub for the combined transport chain, which is the result of potential traffic between Europe and the Middle East. The port will have a capacity of 4 million TEUs per year in the first stages, while the final capacity will be 12 million. We also started the construction of Filyos Port, a major transportation route to the Black Sea. It will have a final capacity of 25 million tons per year once completed and will lighten the burden on Marmara ports and the Istanbul straits.

What have been some of the major developments of the commercial rail network?
Almost 98% of our railways were single-track until 17 years ago. We completed the renovation of all our conventional main rail lines, including the Izmir-Aydın one, which was renovated for the first time in 150 years. While improving our existing railways, we completed major railway projects such as Marmaray, high-speed train lines, and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars Railway. We increased the length of the conventional railway from 10,959km to 11,527km and reached a grand total of 12,740km, with the addition of 1,213km of YHT lines. We also inaugurated and carried more than 50 million people on the Ankara-Istanbul, Ankara-Eskişehir, and Konya-Istanbul YHT lines. İZBAN and Başkentray raised the standards of urban railway transportation in Izmir and Ankara.

What are the ministry's investment plans and main objectives in the next 12 months?
We plan to complete the 82-km Menemen-Aliağa-Çandarlı highway and will partially complete 119km of the Ankara-Niğde highway by the end of 2019 and the remaining 211km by 2020. Additionally, some of our important tunnel projects such as Malatya-Hekimhan, Ilışar, Honaz, Alacabel, Asik Festival, Karasu, Güzeldere, and Ilgar tunnels will also be opened to the public as soon as possible. The construction of a 3,953-km-long railway line will also continue, as will the Ankara-Sivas high-speed railway line, whose trial runs will start by the end of 2019. We also plan to finish the Ankara-Izmir high-speed railway by completing the Polatlı-Afyonkarahisar-Uşak section in 2020 and the Uşak-Manisa-Izmir section in 2021. And the Ankara-Bursa railroad will also be completed in 2020. The construction of Port of Filyos, which has great importance to Turkey, is 75% complete.