Istanbul has celebrated the 90th anniversary of the founding of the modern Turkish republic by opening the world’s first trans-continental tunnel.
Linking the Asian and European shores of the city underneath the Bosphorus Strait, the Marmaray railway link will transport over 1 million commuters a day, easing chronic congestion on the roads.
Tokyo invested heavily in the tunnel and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe joined his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the opening ceremony.
“Marmaray is not just a project for Istanbul,” Erdogan told a huge crowd gathered for the occasion. “It is a project for 81 Turkish cities. My Japanese colleague Mr Abe said something really beautiful – about the tunnel linking Japan to Istanbul – Tokyo, Beijing and London to the Istanbul station of Uskudar.”
Not all Turks share the premier’s enthusiasm. But he and President Abdullah Gul, who later travelled in the tunnel, believe projects like this are just what is needed for a rapidly expanding and increasingly affluent population.