The European and Asian sides of Istanbul are now connected for the first time with a railway tunnel, as the long-awaited Marmaray finally opens on the 90th anniversary of the foundation of the Turkish Republic.
A Turkish-Japanese consortium has realized the project, called the Marmaray, fulfilling a 150-year-old dream. The Marmaray will provide a non-stop railway route connecting China to Western European markets and vice versa as a modern day Silk Road.
The construction of the world’s deepest submerged underwater railway tunnel (62 meters at its deepest point) was supposed to be completed in 2009. But as engineers started to dig, incredible archaeological findings started to surface, which proved that Istanbul’s history dated back 8,500 years, instead of 6,000 as it was used to be known before the Marmaray. That delayed the project for nearly four years.
Officials hope that with up to 1.5 million passengers a day, the tunnel will ease some of Istanbul’s chronic traffic, particularly over the two bridges linking the two sides of the city. The Marmaray was expected to alleviate 20 percent of the 14 million-person city’s traffic burden.
Another underwater crossing construction, only for cars will be in service by 2015. That is the year when the construction of the third suspension bridge over the Bosphorus is also expected to be completed, to increase the total number of connections between the European and Asian sides of the city to five.
In addition to Turkish President Abdullah Gül and Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta are expected to attend the opening ceremony that will also celebrate the foundation of the Turkish Republic 90 years ago.
The railway system project, which is currently acknowledged among the major transportation projects of the world, will measure approximately 76 kilometers in total.
It is expected to transport around one million people per day by connecting the continents in four minutes.
Much-anticipated mega project that is expected to cost around 9.3 billion Turkish Liras ($4.5 billion) after completion of all stages has been promoted to be an effective remedy to Istanbul’s chronic traffic congestion problem at Bosporus.
The 13.6-kilometer tunnel, including a 1.4-kilometer immersed tube tunnel, is the deepest of its kind in the world at 60 meters.
Trains are scheduled to leave from Kazlıçeşme to reach Söğütlüçeşme on the Anatolian side after hauling out of the sea at Ayrılıkçeşme station, covering almost 13.5 kilometers.
Two different lines of speed trains will soon be joined into the Marmaray route, rounding up to a massive 63-kilometer transportation network through the city. Over 13,000 meters of tunnels are included in the project.
The project, which will increase the share of railways within Istanbul’s intra-city transportation, will also have a connection with the Istanbul-Ankara speed rail route.
Reliefs inspired by the pieces belonging to the Neolithic, Byzantine and Ottoman periods will cover the stations’ entrances and interiors. Besides, the remains of a shipwreck dating to the 4th to 5th centuries, catalogued by archaeologists as “Lagan number 12,” will also be exhibited in the art board at Yenikapi Station.
The biggest obstacle to the project’s completion has been the discovery of 40,000 artifacts at Yenikapı. These artifacts were removed with the assistance of the Transportation Ministry and other state authorities, but were then controversially stored in depots due to budget constraints.
These pieces will be exhibited in the museum to be established in the Yenikapi Hundred Islands area named Arkeopark.