ISTANBUL, Turkey – Turkey has completed an 8.5-mile rail tunnel, including a nearly mile-long immersed tube tunnel – the deepest of its kind in the world at 183 feet – under Bosphorus Strait, a busy shipping channel linking the Marmara Sea to the Black Sea.
A successful trial run was made through the tunnel, which connects Istanbul’s European and Asian sides.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who boarded the first train to pass through the tunnel, says the project had been 150 years in the making, and by connecting “London to Beijing,” serves not only those in Istanbul and Turkey.
The tunnel is part of a larger $5 billion “Marmaray” project which also includes an upgrade of existing suburban rail lines to create a 47-mile line that according to the government will carry 1.5 million people a day across the city’s two sides. The name Marmaray comes from combining the name of the Sea of Marmara, which lays just south of the project site, with ray, the Turkish word for rail.
Construction on the tunnel began in 2004 by a Japanese-Turkish consortium, with funding coming from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, and the European Investment Bank.
The project, which has been beset by long delays, is now slated to open to the public on Oct. 29, the anniversary of modern Turkey’s founding. After completion, the use of rail transportation in Istanbul is predicted to rise from 3.6 percent to 27.7 percent.