TURKEY: 'This project that was dreamed of 153 years ago, has been realised' said President Abdullah Gül as he inaugurated the Marmaray tunnel between the European and Asian sides of Istanbul on October 29, as part of the Republic Day celebrations marking the 90th anniversary of Atatürk's proclamation of the Turkish Republic.

Guests at the opening of the 'project of the century' included Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta and Somalian President Hasan Sheikh Mahmud. Also present was Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from major funding partner Japan, who ambitiously suggested that the line could one day form part of a rail route from Tokyo to Istanbul and London.

Initial operations will be limited to metro-style services on the core tunnel section of the route, including a 4 min journey through the immersed tube under the Bosporus between Sirkeci and Üsküdar. Work is still underway to upgrade the suburban railways at either end of the tunnel, with trains expected to run over the full 76·3 km between Halkali and Gebze from mid-2015.

Project of the century

Plans for a tunnel across the Bosporus were first developed during the reign of Sultan Abdülmecid in 1860, and the scheme was revived on a number of occasions. A comprehensive study in 1987 established that the project was feasible and selected the alignment, including the 1·4 km immersed tube tunnel said to be the deepest in the world at 60 m, and 12·2 km of mainly bored tunnel with four underground stations.

Turkey and Japan International Cooperation Agency signed a financing agreement in 1999. Preparatory works began in 2001 and construction of the tunnel in August 2004, with the immersed tube completed in February 2009. Works at Sirkeci station were delayed by significant archaeological discoveries.

The government's General Directorate of Infrastructure Investments is project promoter, with state railway TCDD responsible for operation

Marmaray major contracts
BC1Civil works, four stationsTaisei, Kumagai, Gama, Nurol JVJuly 2004€751·3mEIB/Council of Europe Development Bank
CR2Rolling stock; 440 EMU carsHyundai RotemNovember 2008€580mEIB/Council of Europe Development Bank
CR3Upgrading 63 route-km of surface railway and 36 stations, signalling with ETCS Level 1 and CBTCOHL, Invensys Dimetronic (now Siemens)October 2011€932·8mEIB/Council of Europe Development Bank
Consultancy and support-Avrasyaconult JV (Pacific Consultants International, Yuksel Proje, JARTS, Oriental Consultants), Parsons Brinckerhoff--JICA/Turkish government