Turkey Opens Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge
Turkey has opened the third bridge to cross the Bosphorus, linking Europe and Asia. The Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge has cost $3 Billion. It is 0.9 miles long and some 59 metres wide. The bridge, on the outskirts of Istanbul, is part of a decade long $200 billion investment in infrastructure. The infrastructure project is a cornerstone of President Erdogan’s economic policies.
Turkey’s Economic Need For The Infrastructure Project
Turkey enjoyed rapid economic growth up to 2011. As the country straddles Europe and Asia and enjoys being the link between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, it was able to enjoy the benefits of this geographical location. However, since 2011 the speed of growth has slowed. Three years ago, President Erdogan launched the Infrastructure Project to kick start this growth again. Through investment in roads, canals and airports, the government hopes to become a major hub for trade and communications.
Key Aspects of the Turkish Infrastructure Project
The government have utilised large loans – accounting for 40% of those currently given by the World Bank – to finance this project. Construction is being undertaken by a combination of Turkish and other European companies. In the case of the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, a French company partnered on the construction. The business model for many of the builds is a build and manage model. This gives the constructor the management rights, and therefore income, for a fixed period of time. For the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge these rights guarantee 135000 cars crossing the bridge each day at a fee of $3. Wagons are charged $15.
The Infrastructure Project also includes the construction of a new airport. Once completed, it will be the largest in the world. There is also a plan to dig a new Canal. This would assist shipping in and around the Bosphorus but has been criticised for it’s environmental impact. The canal would also effectively create an Island isolated from the remainder of the city.
Reasons for the Turkish Infrastructure Project
The economic arguments are quite strong. Turkey’s geographical location is key to future economic development and trade between Europe and Asia and from the Caucasus region into the Mediterranean Sphere.
Speaking to Reuters, the Turkish Transport Minister said:
Turkey, by virtue of its geography, bridges Asia and Europe, the Balkans and the Caucasus, but to benefit from this position, we need arteries and corridors, there is money to be made by easing transportation between Europe and Asia, and this is why we are doing these projects.
However, there is also a legacy building aspect to the project. President Erdogan making the point that:
When man dies, he leaves behind a monument
The site of the bridge has caused concern. There are known areas of historic interest that was not excavated prior to construction. The bridge has also been described as a blight on the landscape: though that was a charge levelled at previous bridges across the Bosphorus which are both now deemed iconic. The Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge was based on the design of the Brooklyn Bridge to appease such critics.