Standard gauge rail connection from Asia to Europe opens in Turkey

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ISTANBUL, Turkey – A new rail link under the Bosphoros strait separating Europe and Asia in Istanbul was formally opened to revenue traffic on Tuesday. Officials chose the opening date to coincide with the 90th anniversary of the formation of the Turkish Republic.

This new underground line is 8.5 miles, although the undersea tunnels under the Bosphoros strait are just 0.87 miles long. The undersea sections of the tunnels were prefabricated on land as concrete tubes and then sunk them into a channel cut into the seabed.

The tunnels connect to existing rail lines on both sides. These are also being completely rebuilt to enable frequent commuter rail service. Hyundai Rotem has delivered 440 new electric multiple-unit commuter rail cars for this service.

Among the invited guests was the prime minister of Japan. Japan has funded more than $1 billion of the estimated $3 billion construction cost with loans to the Turkish government.

During construction, large amounts of archeological remains were discovered, some dating back 6,000 years. Properly investigating all the historical remains found delayed the project by several years.

The rail link opened for test runs on Aug. 4, as previously reported by Trains News Wire, with the Turkish prime minister operating the first test train. Limited revenue service will commence immediately as construction and commissioning work is still not complete. (The link has already been used for the delivery of a new Siemens-built high-speed train from Germany to Turkey. This was the first time a train built in Europe had been delivered to Asia by rail.)

The link is the first standard gauge rail line between Europe and Asia. Through freight trains from Turkey to Europe are planned. Freight operations to or from neighboring countries such as Iraq, Iran, or Syria are possible in the future.
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