Deli Dumrul* Tunnel in Gocek Turkey
The 960 metres long Tunnel in Gocek Turkey has a long story dates back to 1965 when Mr. Haldun Mentesoglu (he was the Minister of Public Works than) first mentioned the need. Before the tunnel was built, motorists travelling on D400 Mugla – Antalya road had to drive through the winding mountain roads when they reached Gocek district. 25 minutes drive through mountains were shorten to 1 minute drive with the opening of the Gocek Tunnel but this hardly stopped the arguments about the tunnel, which sparkled again with the demonstrations against the recent toll rises.
The talks of needing a tunnel, plans and promises has been made by every prime minister and ministers since 1965. 8 Prime Ministers, 11 Public Ministers and 13 Parliaments later, finally in 2005 first actual work had started on building of the tunnel. Tubim – Lider Consortium (Lider Insaat Ltd. Sti. with %25 share and Tubim Insaat Ltd. Sti. with %75 share) has signed a “Build – Operate – Transfer” (BOT) agreement with Turkish Government to start the construction in April 2005 with a finish date of July 2006. According to the agreement, Tubim & Lider Insaat was granted with a 26 years concession that would give them rights to collect toll fees from the tunnel to recover its investment, operating and maintenance expenses in the project. Upon this agreement and completion of the tunnel on July 26th 2006, Turkey met with its first BOT Tunnel that is built and operated by a private entity.
As soon as tunnel has started to operate in this beautiful tourism town of Gocek Turkey, opposition voices started protesting the one and only tunnel with toll fees in Turkey. Some criticised the toll fees being too high, (2,50 TL for cars and 3,50 TL for vans in 2006), some criticised the fact that toll was taken on both ways, giving an example of Istanbul’s Bosphorus Bridge to be free on one way, and others criticised the physical conditions of the tunnel as being too narrow and not built to highest technical and safety standards.
As the oppositions to toll collection has risen in time, peeking at price increases, Gocek Tunnel gained a sarcastic name of “Deli Dumrul Tunnel”*
*- Deli Dumrul is a story told by heroic Dastan (legend) teller Dede Korkut that carries morals and values significant to the social lifestyle of the nomadic Turks and their pre-Islamic beliefs, which dates back to 13th century and one of the oldest surviving pieces of Turkish literature.
Summary of the dastan goes like this: Deli Dumrul (Dumrul the Delirious) was a young and smart soldier of Oguz Turks who lived in 9th – 10th century in a small village. He built a bridge on a dry creek and he was charging 30 coins to anyone who wanted to cross and 40 coins to those didn’t want to cross his bridge by beating them.
One day he heard cries from a tent near his bridge and he found out a young man had died and people were crying upon his death. He asked who had taken this man’s life. Crowd answered “Azrael – The Angel of Death”. Dumrul as he is went mad and said only God can take lives, who is this Azrael to take lives and he cried to God to send the angel of death to him so he could fight. One day Dumrul was giving a feast to villagers and Azrael has visited him answering to his defiance. Dumrul had drown his sword and started to chase Azrail on his horse. However angel of death in shape of a pigeon has scared his horse to cause Dumrul to fall and Azrael was upon him to take his life. Dumrul realising the power of Azrael started to cry and begged for his life.
Azrael said he can not forgive him, only God could, but if he found someone to give their life, than his life would be spared. Dumrul asked and begged everyone, even his father and mother, but no one has agreed to give their lives. Only in the end, his beautiful wife Elif (Elif means poetically where everything started) volunteered to give her life to save Dumrul’s life. Loving her so much, Dumrul said his life would have no meaning without her so they both went to Azrael and asked for both their lives to be taken.
God has already just ‘asked’ him to ‘find’ someone to die for him… not to die for him really… But in this test, Dumrul and his wife were ready to die for each other. In the end, God forgives them both and said angel of death to take the father’s and mom’s souls both instead because they would not sacrifice their lives for their son.
The story doesn’t end here. In 2013, ruling Ak Parti’s Mugla MP Mr. Ali Boga has announced that the construction for the second tunnel right next to current tunnel was to start with a promise to finish in 800 days to be open to service in 2016. Several government officials including Regional Chief of Roads and Highways Commission Mustafa Karademir has explained that the reason for building second tunnel was relief the traffic pressure on the first tunnel and complete the missing 5kms of divided Mugla – Antalya road. He also stated that the new tunnel would be free of charge. This promise was repeated by current prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu before the elections held in 2015. They even underlined the fact that in case of making the new tunnel free of charge, management of current tunnel may face survival challenges but this would be resolved in court. As no explanation was made, we do not know if government had tried to convince the management of current tunnel and because they couldn’t get a positive response they have decided to build an alternative tunnel. This part is still a mystery as both sides avoid to make a statement.
Construction of the second tunnel has finished as planned and looks like ready to operate but for some reason it still hasn’t been open to use. This is another mystery as it could be due to arguments and possible court cases are being faced. What is not a surprise is that government officials who has been promising people of a free tunnel already started to change their statements. They now are saying that with all the intentions to make the tunnel free of charge, its not an easy task and they are still in negotiations and Ministry of Transportation is trying to resolve the issue.
While all these arguments are going on, another shock came as the current managing company has increased the toll prices dramatically of about %30-35 to be applicable as of January 2016. With the increase, toll prices for small cars has increased from 3,50 TL to 4,50 TL and for vans/small trucks from 4,50 TL to 6,00 TL. This decision caused a reaction and group of 300 people protested the toll increase with demonstrations at Gocek Tunnel on January 30th, which several civil organisations and MPs of oppositional parties was there to support also.
Public statement was read by Fatih Ozpolat saying Gocek Tunnel is the only tunnel out of 172 tunnels in Turkey with toll and toll is collected on both ways on this Deli Durul Bridge. There is no such example in Turkey, not even at the Bosphorus Bridge where toll is collected on only one way. He also mentioned the poor physical conditions of the current tunnel and said “You can see water leaking from the walls on rainy days. Warning signs and lighting are not sufficient and ventilation never works. People who use the tunnel worry when they see these conditions.”
MP of opposition party CHP Nurettin Demir reminded the promises made by Prime Minister Davutoglu and said “Tunnel should be state owned and free for people. This way AKP would keep their promise they have made before the elections too.” CHP Mugla MP Akın Ustundag said “They probably don’t know what to do with the second tunnel now. That is why its not in service yet. This last toll increase has flamed the already ongoing problems with this tunnel. After necessary improvements on the current tunnel, both tunnels should be open to public free of use.”
Motorists supported the demonstrations by using the old mountain road. Social media campaigns are calling everyone to participate in by not using the tunnel and choosing the old mountain road.