Those who can’t afford should not use Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, says Erdoğan
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on June 22 answered his presidential candidate rival Muharrem İnce’s criticism on citizens having to pay a “high toll rate” to use the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, the third bridge built over the Bosphorus, advising “those with money” to use the privately-operated toll bridges, with “others” having the possibility of utilizing free cost bridges or state-owned ones with relatively lower fee fares.
“What does he [İnce] say? ‘That has such a fee, this has such a fee.’ Oh brother, that way or this way, you cross the bridge whichever suits your book. Do not cross the one that is expensive. We had the private sector undertake the construction of that bridge [Yavuz Sultan Selim]. This is the diversification of resources,” Erdoğan told crowds at an election rally in the Kartal district of Istanbul.
“Those with money cross the private-sector funded bridges, others cross other bridges. Mr. İnce, you instead focus on the fact that we have increased the number of bridges [in Turkey],” he said.
The Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge is a bridge for rail and motor vehicle transit over the Bosphorus strait, to the north of two existing suspension bridges in Istanbul. The bridge was built and is currently operated by a private company. It was opened to traffic on Aug. 26, 2016. The bridge toll rates currently vary from 9.15 Turkish liras ($1.95) to 102 liras ($21.76) depending on the vehicle class.
The toll fees of the two other older bridges connecting the Asian and European sides of the city are relatively lower than that of the Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, which was an issue brought by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) presidential candidate İnce last week.
“Some 15 years later, this bridge [Yavuz Sultan Selim] will be just like the first and second bridges. And why? Because these will be handed over to the state,” Erdoğan said, referring to the new bridge’s being constructed under a build-operate-transfer model.
In this model, private companies build the bridge and have the right to collect tolls from vehicles using the bridge for a period of time before handing the bridge over to the state, which implements a relatively lower toll fee.
The main criticism to the model is the guarantees given by the government to the constructors. According to the deal, a minimum 135,000 vehicles per day is guaranteed to use the bridge and the state compensate the company’s losses if the number is below that.
Also, busses, trucks and other large vehicles are abliged to use the third bridge or they face a fine of around $200.
Turkish President slams opposition parties
Erdoğan on June 22 continued his criticism of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and the Republican People’s Party (CHP) on the issue of Kurdish question in rallies he held in districts on Istanbul’s Anatolian side.
Speaking at a rally in Maltepe district, Erdoğan said the HDP “started to threaten” the AKP’s provincial and district chairs in southeastern Turkey.
“They stay in the mountains and threaten over phone, I dare them to come down to the city centers,” he said.
He accused the CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and the party’s presidential candidate Muharrem İnce of not taking a firm position against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and the Fetullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
“Did you make any statement, remarks on the issue of fight against terror? Did you make any statement about struggle against FETÖ? No. Why? Because they are together,” he said.
Erdoğan also blamed those who criticize imprisonment of Selahattin Demirtaş, HDP’s presidential candidate, particularly CHP leader’s comments on the issue.
The Supreme Election Board (YSK) has made an “emotional” decision to allow Demirtaş as presidential candidate and made a “mistake,” he said.