Er­do­gan opens first Bospho­rus road tun­nel

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan yes­ter­day opened the first ever road tun­nel un­der­neath the Bospho­rus Strait in Istanbul, the lat­est project in his plan of trans­form­ing Turkey’s in­fra­struc­ture. The open­ing cer­e­mony - which brought to­gether Turkey’s en­tire rul­ing elite - went ahead as planned de­spite the shock as­sas­si­na­tion of the Rus­sian am­bas­sador to Ankara by a Turk­ish po­lice­man a day ear­lier.

Turkey in Oc­to­ber 2013 opened the Mar­maray rail tun­nel un­der­neath the iconic wa­ter­way, the first link be­neath the wa­ters that di­vide Europe and Asia. But the new two­s­torey Avrasya (Eura­sia) Tun­nel, built at a depth of 106 m, is the first tun­nel for cars un­der­neath the Bospho­rus and aims to re­lieve con­ges­tion in the traf­fic-clogged Turk­ish megac­ity. Af­ter cut­ting the cer­e­mo­nial rib­bon, Er­do­gan joined a vast cortege of ve­hi­cles mak­ing the first un­der­sea car jour­ney be­tween the two con­ti­nents, stop­ping half­way to take sou­venir photos.

The as­sas­si­na­tion of Rus­sian am­bas­sador An­drei Karlov Mon­day was the lat­est in a string of shock­ing acts of vi­o­lence in Turkey this year. But Er­do­gan vowed that his am­bi­tions will not be de­railed by the failed July 15 coup and the swathe of ter­ror at­tacks Turkey has suf­fered in 2016. “Sub­ject us to as much ter­ror as you want, bring in as many vil­lains but you will never be able to di­vide this na­tion,” he told thou­sands at the open­ing cer­e­mony.

The tun­nel re­quired an in­vest­ment of $1.2 bil­lion, in­clud­ing loans of $960 mil­lion, and will re­duce driv­ing time for the route from up to 2 hours to just 15 min­utes. It was built by a con­sor­tium con­sist­ing of pri­vate Turk­ish con­struc­tion com­pany Yapi Merkezi and South Korea’s SK Group. The project com­prises a 5.4km tun­nel, with the por­tion be­neath the Bospho­rus 3.4 km long. The tun­nel was built with a spe­cial tun­nel bor­ing ma­chine which had a daily progress speed of 8-10 m on av­er­age. With Istanbul ly­ing on an ac­tive seis­mic zone, the tun­nel has been de­signed to with­stand a 7.5-mag­ni­tude earth­quake.

“Praise be that we are part of a coun­try and a city that con­nects two con­ti­nents,” said Er­do­gan. Er­do­gan said a trip through the tun­nel would cost 15 lira ($4.25) un­til the end of the year, with all the rev­enues un­til then go­ing to fam­i­lies of vic­tims of the coup and those who helped de­feat it.

Turk­ish Trans­port Min­is­ter Ah­met Arslan told AFP the author­i­ties now planned to build a third tun­nel un­der the Bospho­rus that would have three storeys and carry both cars and trains. “I think the Avrasya tun­nel will hugely ease the lives of the res­i­dents of Istanbul,” Arslan told AFP. “But we are not just go­ing to stop there.” Er­do­gan has said he is aim­ing to build a “new Turkey” with trans­formed in­fra­struc­ture in time for the 100th an­niver­sary in 2023 of the foun­da­tion of the mod­ern state by Mustafa Ke­mal Ataturk.

Other schemes, which Er­do­gan boasts are his “crazy projects”, in­clude a gi­gan­tic third air­port for Istanbul, the first ever bridge across the Dar­danelles straits and even a Suez-style ship­ping canal for Istanbul. Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim an­nounced at the tun­nel’s in­au­gu­ra­tion cer­e­mony that the new air­port would open on Feb 26, 2018. Just one month af­ter the at­tempted coup, Er­do­gan opened the third bridge across the Bospho­rus named af­ter the me­di­ae­val sul­tan Se­lim the Grim.

Sug­ges­tions for the nam­ing of the new tun­nel in­cluded Ataturk and the late-pe­riod Ot­toman Sul­tan Ab­dul­hamid II, an arch­con­ser­va­tive whose rep­u­ta­tion has un­der­gone a ma­jor re­vival in Turkey in re­cent years. But the author­i­ties have set­tled on the far less po­lit­i­cally loaded Avrasya Tun­nel, de­spite a high-pro­file cam­paign by of­fi­cials for the pub­lic to sub­mit names. — AFP

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