The Marmaray Tunnel is one of the key projects defined in the 2023 Master Plan – Turkey’s long-term development strategy culminating in the centenary of the Republic in 2023. The train driver for the maiden journey under the Bosphorus was Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, accompanied by a number of senior national and municipal government figures, including Minister for Transport, Binali Yıldırım, and Mayor of Istanbul, Kadir Topbaş.
The ride from Üsküdar on the Asian side to Sirkeci on the European side of the Bosphorus strait took just six minutes. As well as being the world’s first subway connecting two continents, the Marmaray Tunnel is also the world’s deepest immersed tube tunnel, with sections up to 60m below sea level. In addition to the 13.6km Bosphorus crossing, the project will also see a further 63km of suburban train lines upgraded, creating a new high-capacity rail line which will carry up to 75,000 passengers per hour in both directions.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, “The Marmaray project is the dream of our ancestors. It has been our privilege to realise it and complete it. We will be travelling between continents, from Asia to Europe and back again. This project will link the Beijing-London rail line. It is a major undertaking that will also connect to the Kars-Tbilisi-Baku line. Building the high-speed rail network in our time is a source of pride for us. We do not just talk about things: we build them.”
During the city’s first bid for the Olympic Games in 1992, Istanbul had no metro line; in 2005 there was a 45km network; by 2020 that will have extended to 265km. Istanbul is one of the only Candidate Cities in history to have already a functioning subway from the heart of the city right to the Olympic Park.
The national and municipal governments have been investing an average of $1.5 billion annually in upgrades to Istanbul’s transport network since the city’s last bid for the Games in 2005.
Minister for Transport Binali Yıldırım commented on the significance of the successful test run, “Building the Marmaray Tunnel is one of Istanbul’s great modern achievements. It’s a symbol of our country’s development, but more importantly it will improve the daily lives of Istanbul citizens. This successful test is an important stepping stone towards the tunnel’s opening on Republic Day, when for the first time Europe and Asia will be linked by a subway connection.
“We forecast that 12 million journeys a day will be made by public transport in 2020, and more than 50% of those will be made by rail. We are committed to making Istanbul one of the most efficient and best connected cities on the planet.”