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Rail to Europe 60 metres below seabed!

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Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge as seen from the Rumelian Castle (1452) Photo: KeRR at en.wikipedia

Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge as seen from the Rumelian Castle (1452) Photo: KeRR at en.wikipedia

A 13.6 km rail tunnel under the Istanbul Bosporus river connecting Europe and Asia has opened a new chapter in the world of travel & tourism and transportation. Turkey unveiled on Tuesday a three-billion-euro rail tunnel under the Bosphorus connecting Istanbul’s European and Asian sides, one of several mega projects driven by the Islamic-rooted government in the country’s main gateway city. Bosphorus strait connects Black sea to sea of Marmara.

The 8.5 miles tunnel includes an immersed tube tunnel which as claimed is the world’s deepest at 60 meters (nearly 200 feet) below the seabed. The inauguration of the ambitious project costing an estimated three billion euros coincided with the 90th anniversary of the founding of modern Turkey.

First Train

First Train

Turkey has realized a one-and-a-half century dream of a major rail tunnel project in Istanbul. The tunnel is part of a larger “Marmaray” project that also includes an upgrade of existing suburban train lines to create a 76-kilometre (47-mile) line that links the two continents. The idea was first floated by Ottoman sultan Abdoul Medjid in 1860 but technical equipment at the time was not good enough to take the project further.

However the desire to build an undersea tunnel grew stronger in the 1980s and studies also showed that such a tunnel would be feasible and cost-effective. Plan was revived in 2004 as one of his mega construction projects for the bustling city of 16 million people — which also include a third airport, a third bridge across the Bosphorus and a canal parallel to the international waterway to ease traffic.

Excavations from the project

Excavations from the project

Although these projects were also one cause for the massive anti-government protests that swept the country in June, with local residents complaining that the urban development plans were forcing people from their homes and destroying green spaces.  Japan Bank for International Cooperation was the main financier contributing 735 million euros ($1 billion) to the project. Construction of the tunnel, labelled the “project of the century”, started in 2004 and had been scheduled to take four years but was delayed after a series of major archaeological discoveries. These archaeological excavations delayed construction.

Some 40,000 objects were excavated from the site, notably a cemetery of some 30 Byzantine ships, which is the largest known medieval fleet. Transport is a major problem in Istanbul, and each day two million people cross the Bosphorus via two usually jammed bridges. New transportation axis between the east and west points of the city, might soothe the problem… with 150,000 passenger capacity per hour.

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