(Adds TAV comment)
ANKARA, Jan 22 (Reuters) - Turkey will launch a tender to build Istanbul’s third airport on Thursday and is aiming for the first stage of construction to be completed in three to four years, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday.
One of the country’s biggest planned infrastructure projects, the multi-billion dollar airport plan is intended to add vital capacity in a fast-growing region.
Passenger traffic through Istanbul has risen sharply in recent years as flag carrier Turkish Airlines, one of the world’s fastest growing carriers, has expanded routes around the world using the city as its hub.
The airport, which will have an initial capacity to handle 90 million passengers a year, extending eventually to 150 million with three runways for simultaneous use, is to be built in separate stages.
Industry officials say the entire project will cost between 8 and 10 billion dollars.
TAV, a Turkish airport operator and builder, and construction company Limak are among the companies that have expressed interest in bidding for the contract.
TAV also has the operating rights for Istanbul’s Ataturk airport, the country’s largest, until 2021. It said in a statement to the stock exchange that the Turkish airports authority would compensate it for any losses if the third airport opens while it is still running Ataturk.
Reporting by Ozge Ozbilgin; Writing by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Daren Butler