October 30, 2013
Turkish President Abdullah Gül (third from the left) gives a speech before the tape is cut. Also pictured are Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (fifth from the left) and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (third from the right).
Today, the opening ceremony was held for the railway tunnel underneath the Bosphorus Strait in conjunction with the 90th year anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. JICA has provided assistance for the railway tunnel crossing the strait through ODA loans totaling 153.274 billion yen.
In attendance at the opening ceremony were President Abdullah Gül, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Minister of Transport, Maritime Affairs and Communications Binali Yıldırım representing Turkey. Representing Japan were Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato; Senior Vice-Minister of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Tsuyoshi Takagi; Japanese Ambassador to Turkey, Yutaka Yokoi; and JICA Vice-President Masakazu Ichikawa; among others who celebrated the opening of the tunnel. Abe expressed his joy that Japan was able to cooperate in the historic project, emphasizing the powerful relationship between Japan and Turkey. Erdoğan also indicated his hopes for further cooperation from Japan in the future. After the ceremony, the dignitaries boarded a five-car train along with members of the press, departing from Üsküdar Station on the Asian side of the strait and arriving at Yenikapı Station on the European side.
Located 60 meters below sea level—the deepest underwater immersed tunnel in the world—the tunnel required a high level of technical construction expertise and the building conditions presented great difficulties, including swift currents in the strait and much maritime traffic. While building the underground stations, great care was required for the buried cultural heritage that were discovered, the sort found near only such a historical city as Istanbul. With the opening of the tunnel, the crossing of the strait will be dramatically reduced from the nearly 30 minutes that it takes by ferry today to a mere four minutes. Located at a key position for transportation, Istanbul suffers from chronic traffic congestion and heavy air pollution due to exhaust gas and other factors. It is expected that as use of the underground railway grows, these problems will be alleviated.
Many people from the general public, as well as members of the press gather for the ceremony (left). Abe gives a speech at the ceremony.