Turkey opened the world’s first underwater rail link between two continents on Tuesday, connecting Asia and Europe and allowing Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan to realize a project dreamed up by Ottoman sultans more than a century ago.
The engineering feat spans 13 km to link Europe with Asia some 60 meters below the Bosphorus Strait. Called the Marmaray, it will carry subway commuters in Europe’s biggest city and eventually serve high-speed and freight trains.
“Today we are realizing the dreams of 150 years ago, uniting the two continents and the people of these two continents,” Erdogan said at the opening, which coincides with the 90th anniversary of the founding of the modern Turkish Republic.
The 5.5 billion lira ($2.8 billion) tunnel is one of Erdogan’s “mega projects,” an unprecedented building spree designed to change the face of Turkey. They include a 50-km canal to rival the Suez that would render half of Istanbul an island, an airport that will be the world’s busiest and a giant mosque atop an Istanbul hill.Atomic power stations are on the drawing table. A third bridge over the Bosphorus, whose construction has already felled 1 million trees, is under way.
The plans have fired up Erdogan’s opponents who dub them “pharaonic projects,” symptom of an increasingly authoritarian style of government, and warn of environmental catastrophes in one of world’s most earthquake-prone nations.Erdogan has called the Marmaray the project of the century and says it fulfils an age-old “dream of our ancestors.”
Plans for a rail tunnel below the Bosphorus date to at least 1891, when Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid, a patron of public works whom Erdogan frequently evokes, had French engineers draft a submerged tunnel on columns that was never built.Today, the gleaming Marmaray is an immersed tube set in the seabed built by Japan’s Taisei Corp. with Turkish partners Nurol and Gama. The bulk of financing came from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation.
The Union of Chambers of Turkish Engineers and Architects warned the Marmaray set on a silty seabed 20 km from the active North Anatolian Fault is at risk in case of a large earthquake, which geologists predict may strike within a generation.But Yildirim described the Marmaray as the “safest structure in Istanbul,” its free-floating structure designed to withstand an earthquake with a magnitude of 9. Interlocking floodgates would seal off each section.
Via: Turk News Agency.
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