The Marmaray rail tunnel will be officially opened in Istanbul on October 29 on the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the Turkish Republic. Ministers from Azerbaijan, Japan, Afghanistan, Georgia, Bulgaria and Romania will participate at the opening.
This project has a historical significance not only for Turkey's transport sector, but also global transport infrastructure.
For Turkey, this project is one the largest transport projects that reconstructed the national transport system and linked the European and Asian parts of Istanbul through the undersea rail tunnel under the Bosphorus Strait.
Marmaray was started almost 10 years ago and is designed to serve over a million people per day. The uniqueness of this project is that it includes an undersea tunnel, three underground stations, 37 above ground stations which were modernised and reconstructed, an operational control centre, new mechanical and electrical systems and rail vehicles. There will be a cable car built over the strait that will link Asia and Europe.
It is expected that trains will pass to the Bosphorus in just two minutes and take passengers from Halkali to Gebze in 103 minutes which are the last points of Istanbul in Europe and Asia respectively. This will have a particular significance for Istanbul which has 11 million people and where traffic jams are the biggest problem.
Meanwhile, this is the only project of its kind allowing the transport of both passengers and cargo through one tunnel. After commissioning the tunnel, the volume of rail transport in Istanbul will increase by 20 per cent up to 28 per cent of the total transit volume.
At a global level, the Marmaray project will provide an alternative route to the Middle East, Central Asia and Far East. First of all, this project will benefit the neighbouring countries among which Azerbaijan will turn into an economic and energy centre over time.
Being the first continuation of the 'Silk Road' of its kind, Marmaray will have trans-European significance for the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad.
The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railroad initially designed to link the transport systems of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, can now link Europe with the Caspian region.
That will have positive impact on the development of trade and in general the strengthening of the region's economy. Central Asian countries, Afghanistan and China are also interested in Baku-Tbilisi-Kars. These countries consider the transport corridor running up to the Black Sea as an alternative route to sea ports.
This means that thanks to the Marmaray tunnel and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project, the historical 'Great Silk Road' will revive which will allow passenger and cargo transportation from Europe to arrive quickly at destinations located in Central Asia and China through Turkey.