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Turkey opens up the ‘iron Silk Road’ 29 octobre 2013

Posted by Acturca in Economy / Economie, Istanbul, Turkey / Turquie.

The National (UAE) Tuesday, October 29, 2013, p. 1

Thomas Seibert, Foreign Correspondent

Bosphorus rail tunnel links Europe and Asia in Istanbul. More than a century ago, it was an Ottoman sultan’s distant dream. Now an underground rail link between Europe and Asia in Turkey’s metropolis of Istanbul – part of an “iron Silk Road” – is a reality. The Marmaray rail link, launched today on the 90th anniversary of the republic, can carry 75,000 passengers and thousands of tonnes of freight an hour through twin concrete tunnels beneath the Sea of Marmara. “We are connecting London to Beijing,” says Turkey’s prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. “It is a dream of 150 years.”

The immediate aim of the state project, begun in 2004 and built by a Turkish-Japanese consortium at an estimated cost of Dh17 billion, is to reduce road congestion in Istanbul, a city with a booming economy, 15 million people and three million cars.

About 140 million vehicles a year cross Istanbul’s two motorway bridges over the Bosphorus Strait, almost three times their original capacity. A third bridge across the Strait north of the city is due to be completed in 2015.

Marmaray is designed to carry more than a million rail commuters between Europe and Asia through its earthquake-proofed tunnels every day. The 1.4-kilometre section of immersed tube tunnel is the deepest of its kind in the world at 55 metres.

p. 11

Istanbul rail tunnel links Europe to Asia

Mr Erdogan, the president, Abdullah Gul and other officials will today inaugurate an initial 13.6km stretch of an underground connection between the districts of Kazlicesme on the European side and Ayrilikcesme on the Asian shore.

After above-ground extensions of 64km are completed by 2016, the line will be about 77km long and connect Gebze in Istanbul’s Asian south-east with Halkali in the European west, with an estimated travel time of an hour and 45 minutes. The same trip takes twice as long with the existing public-transport system on Istanbul’s congested roads.

Marmaray is to be integrated with a growing network of metro lines on both sides of Istanbul that will reach close to 800km by 2030, from the existing 124km.

Istanbul’s municipality has been trumpeting the extension plans with the slogan “Metro everywhere, Metro going everywhere” on bridges and flyovers all over the city. It is also planning a cable- car link across the Bosphorus, to be completed in 2015.

How best to link the two parts of Istanbul has vexed authorities in the city for centuries.

The Ottoman ruler, Sultan Abdulmecid, first proposed the idea of building a tunnel under the Sea of Marmara in the 1860s. He asked a French engineer to work out the plans, but the project came to nothing.

The transport minister, Binali Yildirim, said Marmaray could be used not only to carry passengers, but to transport freight as well, reflecting Turkey’s hope that trade by rail between Europe and Asian countries as far as China will get a boost.

“This project of 150 years is a part of an iron Silk Road,” the minister said.

Suleyman Karaman, head of Turkey’s state rail company TCDD, has said the Marmaray project opened up new possibilities in international passenger and freight transport by rail.

He said a new rail connection linking Kars in eastern Turkey with Georgia and Azerbaijan, to be completed next year, would allow more trade through Central Asia.

“The aim is to carry an initial 6.5 million tonnes of freight a year with the Kars-Tiflis-Baku project,” Mr Karaman said. High-speed rail links under construction in Anatolia would offer “an important transport alternative for the Middle East, Central Asia and East Asia”. The Marmaray project was delayed by several years after significant archaeological finds interrupted construction.

In 2006, digging for the construction of an underground station in Yenikapi, a district on the European shore, unearthed an ancient Byzantine harbour, complete with the remains of ships and even sets of dice used by sailors.


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