From Asia to Europe – express ride through the Bosphorus

Istanbul, Europe’s largest city, has flourished for centuries as a gateway for cultures from the East and West. Today, 16 million inhabitants call it home. Three million of them have to cross the Bosphorus every day to go to work, waiting in traffic jams on the bridges, or crowding along the railings of ferries.

For years, congestion has threatened to overshadow the city’s historic place on the Silk Road. Now the tunnel along the Bosphorus river bed rejuvenates Istanbul’s rich heritage in trade and commerce, and reduces the stress for the city’s daily commuters.

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Published on 16.01.2015

Easing access for millions of residents

In 2015, the Marmaray Project expands to include overhauled stations and a new extension line, easing access for millions of residents to the east-west rail. The resulting new transport infrastructure – including escalators and elevators – will carry 75,000 people per hour – east and west. So press the down button, and you’re one step closer to bridging two continents.

Map of Marmaray project with tunnel across the floor of the Bosphorus

A vision fit for a sultan

160 years ago the city fathers began dreaming of building a tunnel under the Sea of Marmara. Sultan Abdülmecid first foresaw the need to quickly traverse the Bosphorus already in 1860, but the idea was before its time, and the technology was not up to the visionary task. Fast-forward to the 21st century, and while Istanbul is still steeped in history and tradition, now state-of-the art engineering solutions and new mobility advances also characterize this exciting mega-city.

The citizens of Istanbul had to wait nearly ten years for its completion, but in October 2013, a 13.6 km rail tunnel, 56 meters deep and extending across the floor of the Bosphorus, was officially opened to great fanfare and enthusiasm. It is the first tunnel of its kind to connect two different continents – Europe and Asia, making it another historical landmark for Istanbul.

Over the first 15 days, which were free of charge, 4.5 million passengers thronged to put rail and tunnel to the test. School children pressed their faces to the windows; “selfies” started flooding the twitter feeds. Yet many quietly enjoyed the new advantages of modern commuting and tipped away on their laptops – Turkey’s modern leap across time and space now a matter of course.  

“Turkey has become a growing economic power in the region and its dynamic growth has pushed it into the group of the 20 most important industrialized and newly industrializing countries.”

Çetin Nazikkol

CEO thyssenkrupp Turkey

The next step – extending down the line

By the summer of 2015, the Marmaray project will provide Istanbul with a complete modern high-capacity railway, knitting together an integrated network of tram, light rail and metro lines. And all lines lead to the Bosphorus tunnel. 37 train stations along the 63 km section are being demolished and rebuilt. Ultimately, Halkali the west will be linked with Gebze in the east, cutting travel time between the two points from 3 hours to 105 minutes.

Cross-section of the 13.6 km rail tunnel

At each step of the line, thyssenkrupp Elevator is guaranteeing easy, speedy access, as well as safety and reliability. 198 elevators, including stunning panoramic elevators and 165 escalators are being installed in rail stations as well as at various pedestrian crossing and buildings. This outstanding availability to the network – both indoors and outdoors – brings the Marmaray network to the doorsteps of millions.

Overall the rail network will raise the proportion of transport by rail in the city from below four to almost 30 percent, and 1.5 million passengers a day are expected to travel beneath the Bosphorus.  

346 new escalators and elevators help to carry 75,000 people per hour.
“The contract is further proof of our expertise in providing infrastructure and mobility solutions for technologically demanding projects. At the same time it underlines our commitment to this strategically important growth region.”

Ercan Keles

Chairman of the Supervisory Board of the Turkish company thyssenkrupp Asansör

A modern-day Silk Road

2015 sees Turkey successfully finalizing a project envisioned by Ottoman sultans. With Istanbul’s metropolitan area emerging as one of the fastest-growing in Europe, the Marmaray Project is an inspiration to other mega-cities struggling to maintain transport infrastructures for increasingly mobile and modern citizenry.

The tunnel also helps to reestablish Istanbul as an important crossroads in East-West commerce, and Turkey could see revenue in trade increase dramatically along a new iron and steel “Silk Road”. But beyond the facts and figures, the tunnel brings a little romance and wanderlust back to Istanbul. The possibilities are suddenly endless – London to Beijing on the rails, anyone?