Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan went for an inaugural drive on Saturday in Istanbul’s latest mega-project: the first-ever road tunnel linking the city’s European and Asian sides under the Bosphorus Strait.
The tunnel will open to the public on December 20 but Erdogan, accompanied by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and Transport Minister Ahmet Arslan, made the first journey from the Asian side to the European side by car.
Work to build the five kilometre (3.1 mile)-long tunnel began in February 2011 and has two levels which will be open to traffic. This will cut a swathe through the original journey time down from 100 minutes to 15.
The toll to use the tunnel will be $4 (3.50 euros) plus VAT to use the Avrasya (Eurasia) tunnel, the transport minister said.
The Eurasia tunnel is the latest in a series of key infrastructure projects in Istanbul including the city’s third airport due to open in the second quarter of 2018. The airport will eventually handle more than the combined passenger numbers of Charles de Gaulle in Paris and London’s Heathrow, making it Europe’s largest airport.
In August, Erdogan inaugurated the city’s third bridge, one of the longest suspension bridges in the world, over the Bosphorus, just over a month after the failed coup attempt of 15th July.
Speaking after his inaugural drive through the tunnel, President Erdogan said that 156 million people have crossed from the Asian side to the European side since October 2013 when the Marmaray underground railway tunnel opened linking the two sides of the Bosphorus.
“It was all a dream come true,” he added, referring to the project which has significantly improved public transport for the city’s 15 million residents by making it quicker to get across the two sides.