A new tunnel constructed under the Bosporus river has opened, allowing for a more direct rail link between Europe and Asia.
The new EUR3 billion tunnel connects the European side of Istanbul to the Asian side for 8.5 miles.
The tunnel is 60 metres below the seabed and is part of a larger project to upgrade the existing train network between the two continents.
Tourism ministers are ‘delighted’ with the opening, although tour operators think tourists will still prefer to travel on the water.
Ali Selcuk Can, director at the Turkish Culture & Tourism Office said: “We’re delighted that the long-awaited Marmaray Tunnel, the world’s first rail tunnel linking Europe and Asia, has been opened in Istanbul today. It will give our 9-million-plus foreign visitors a year to Istanbul yet another option for exploring the delights of this fabled city, quickly and comfortably.”
However Akin Koc, managing director of Anatolian Sky Holidays said: “Crossing the Bosphorus by ferry has a certain charm for visitors and is really a key part of experiencing Istanbul, therefore it seems unlikely that the opening of the new tunnel will fundamentally change the way tourists explore the city. One of the main advantages for tourists however could be an improvement in the transfer time between Sabiha Gokcen Airport, on the Asian side of the city, and the main Old City.”
The idea first came about in the 1860s but only came into serious consideration under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Edrogan, who revived the project in 2004.