Oct 29 2013 marked the official opening of 5.5 billion lira tunnel, one of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s ‘mega projects’ which was designed to improve the image of Turkey internationally.
At the opening of the tunnel which, coincidentally, falls on the 90th anniversary of the founding of the modern Turkish Republic, Mr Erdogan said: "Today we are realising the dreams of 150 years ago, uniting the two continents and the people of these two continents."
The Marmaray link is an iconic symbol of modern engineering. It has a span of 13km, linking Europe with Asia from approximately 60 metres below the Bosphorus Strait. The project will transport subway commuters in Europe’s biggest city and eventually accommodate high-speed and freight trains.
The ambitious project includes a 50-kilometre canal to rival the Suez that would make part of Istanbul an island, an airport that is expected to be the busiest in the world and an immense mosque on top of an Istanbul hill.
While proposals for atomic power stations are under consideration, a third bridge over Bosphorus, which has caused the destruction of one million trees, is being constructed.
The plans have caused anger amongst Erdogan’s opponents who have proclaimed them as “pharaonic projects”, an indication of an increasingly authoritarian government, and gave a warning of potential environmental catastrophes that could take place in one of world´s most earthquake-prone countries.
Erdogan, on the other hand, argued that his policies are tailored to meet the needs of a fast growing and increasing wealthy population.
"Roads are civilisation," he said. "Our values recognise no obstacle for roads. If a mosque is where a road will go, we will tear down that mosque and build it elsewhere."
The two bridges and ferry services crossing the Bosphorus are heavily crowded with commuters in Europe’s biggest city. The current predictions indicate that the Marmaray will diminish car traffic by 20 percent in Istanbul, which is amongst the world’s most congested roads, and will eventually carry 1.5 million people per day.
Over the next decade, Turkey is expecting to spend $250 billion on roads, energy and IT infrastructure.