Romanian PM Ponta attended the inauguration ceremony.
A railway tunnel underneath the Bosphorus Strait was opened yesterday in Turkey, creating a new link between the Asian and European shores of Istanbul, the BBC reports. The tunnel is the world’s first connecting two continents, and is designed to withstand earthquakes. It was opened on the 90th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey. The Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta was paying on Tuesday a one-day official visit to Istanbul at the invitation of his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the agenda featuring the ceremony of inauguration of the railway tunnel ‘ Marmaray ‘, also, the Romanian government informs in a press release. Ponta was accompanied by Agriculture Minister Daniel Constantin and Romanian ambassador in Ankara Radu Onofrei.
“The inauguration of Marmaray tunnel is indeed an historical achievement and a major project has been carried out by connecting Europe to Asia,” PM Victor Ponta stated for his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to his personal Facebook account.
PM Ponta visited, early in the day Yedikule Museum, an event when the unveiling of a memorial plaques dedicated to Constantin Brancoveanu and his four sons is scheduled. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was present at the official opening in recognition of the Bank of Japan’s status as the project’s principal financial backer.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has for years championed the undersea engineering project, first conceived by an Ottoman sultan in 1860. Work began in 2004 but archaeological excavations delayed construction. The underwater section runs for 0.8 miles (1.4 km), but in total the tunnel is 8.5 miles (13.6 km) long. Japan invested USD 1bn of the USD 4bn (GBP 3.4bn) total cost of the project, named Marmaray, which is a conflation of the nearby Sea of Marmara with “ray”, the Turkish word for rail.
The Turkish government hopes the new route under the Bosphorus will eventually develop into an important trading route. In theory it will be possible to travel between London and Beijing by train, though there are no plans for a direct service. The Marmaray project will upgrade existing suburban train lines to create a direct link joining the southern part of the city across the Bosphorus Strait. The rail service will be capable of carrying 75,000 people per hour in either direction. “While creating a transport axis between the east and west points of the city, I believe it will soothe the problem” of congestion, said Istanbul’s mayor Kadir Topbas. But critics of Prime Minister Erdogan have seen the tunnel as one of his grandiose construction projects for the city where he used to be mayor.