Marmaray Tunnel Opening Ceremony

Turkey connects Europe and Asia with Underwater ‘Marmaray’ Tunnel

Turkey’s ambitious transport project to link Europe and Asia through an underwater tunnel officially opened on October 29th 2013 in celebration of Turkey’s 90th anniversary as a republic. The tunnel’s name Marmaray and comes from combining the name of the Sea of Marmara with the word ray which is the Turkish word for ‘rail’. It is said that Ottoman Sultan Abdülhamid first proposed the idea of connecting the two continents underwater as early as 1860. Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan highlighted Sultan Abdülhamidl’s proposal by describing the Marmaray as “the fulfilment of a dream of 150 years”.

The project officially started in 2005 and was expected to be completed in four years but the discovery of archaeological finds delayed the transport project. The tunnel stretches across 46 kilometres and crosses the Bosphorus at a depth of 60 metres. Marmaray takes passengers from Istanbul’s Europe side to its Asian side in just four minutes and is expected to carry 75,000 passengers per hour and over a million passengers a day. This is excepted to significantly reduce congestion across Istanbul’s bridges which can sometimes take passengers hours to cross during peak times.

Questions have been raised about the safety of the Marmaray due to the risks of earthquakes in Turkey. The tunnel has been built to withstand an earthquake with a magnitude of 9 and also features interlocking floodgates to seal off each section of the tunnel. Turkey’s current Minister of Transport Binali Yıldırım has been quick is dispel any early worries about the Marmaray tunnel by describing it as the “safest structure in Istanbul”.

The Marmaray project has ignited talks to one day be extended to Beijing and London. This would without a doubt be one of the biggest transportation infrastructure projects in history and would prove to be a viable alternative to air travel. A ride on the line will cost 1.95 TL.