Ahmet Arslan, minister for Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications says that the ministry has reached the final stages of planning the routes for the Kanal (Channel) Istanbul project, adding that bridges will be built before it becomes operational to avoid traffic problems.
Speaking to journalists about the project, Arslan emphasized that the endeavor is very important, stressing that the formations around the bridges need to complement each other. "Furthermore, a different financial method can be used in each case. In particular, we need to clarify the studies related to the islands so that what we can see returns and contributions as a result of this financial method," Arslan said, underlining that a much bigger figure than any bridge or tunnel is in question.
Stating that the Ministry aims to complete construction of the bridges within the scope of Kanal Istanbul prior to the project's completion to prevent traffic disruptions, Arslan said that the bridges will be built first, providing the main thoroughfare, followed by removal of the existing roadway and excavations for the channel. Noting that trains will use two of the five bridges, Arslan said there is also an alternative option to combine the two railways before the channel. "There will be one bridge if the two railways are connected before the channel, but if they are to be connected after the channel, then there will be two. For example, they can be linked in Çayırova and Akyazı on the Anatolian side and linked in Halkalı or Kınalı. We are working on both alternatives," Arslan said.
Port for cruise ships
They are also working on ports at the entrances and exits of the channel and in the Sea of Marmara, along with the islands. Arslan pointed out that there is a chance of reclaiming land toward the Black Sea or an island, adding that feasibility studies are in progress. The minister also underlined that a cruise port will also be constructed as part of the project, either on the Black Sea side or on the island side.
Noting that the North Marmara Highway is being built, Arslan added that the train line, which will start from the airport and run in the direction of Edirne, is an additional line as well. "We now have a high-speed train line to Edirne that we are planning to bring to tender this year. So, there are three more lines in addition to the existing routes."
Care for the environment
Referring to environmentalists' reactions regarding the project, minister Arslan said that more green space will be created with this project. Emphasising that they will build areas in which people can breathe through afforestation, Arslan recalled that projects in Istanbul constructed under the Bosporus had garnered speculation that they would ruin ecological balance and the marine ecosystem.
"At the end of the day, people saw that the Marmaray and the Eurasia Tunnel had no effect on marine ecology. At Kanal Istanbul, we are also working with universities and professors who specialize in this subject. We work with many universities, not just with a few teachers but with many," Arslan said, adding that they will work at a depth that will both protect the ecological balance and ease vessel passage when the Black Sea and Marmara are linked.
Regarding the Sovereign Wealth Fund (SWF), Arslan noted that a resource has not yet been allocated by the SWF. "In the projects that we will build with equity rather than with the build-operate-transfer model, they can support our projects by borrowing at the cost of the SWF under favorable conditions, apart from classical borrowing methods. In our major projects, the SWF will be a significant contributor," Arslan said. Referring to the fact that the proposed depth of Kanal Istanbul has changed a number of times, Arslan said, "There must be a depth and width that enables the largest ships to pass but which also does not disturb the ecological balance. We will determine the optimal depth by taking all of these factors into consideration."