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139th

Istanbul Electrics, Trams and Tunnel Management (IETT) has held a ceremony to mark establishment of 139th anniversary of Tünel, which is the second oldest subterranean urban rail line in the world, after the London Underground (1863).

Musicians greeted passengers while Tünel was adorned with carnations for the ceremony.

İETT head Hayri Baraçlı said having was a matter of pride Tünel, as it is one of the best brands, not only for Istanbul, but also for the world. Protecting Tünel’s historical patterns was so important and İETT was doing everything to keep it alive, Baraçlı also said.

Tünel today is a part of the municipal transport network and serves some 12,000 people daily.

Tünel was originally conceived by French engineer Eugene Henri Gavand, who came to the city as a tourist in 1867. Its purpose was to provide an easy ride between the neighborhoods of Pera in Beyoğlu and Galata in Karaköy, both of which were in the relatively newer part of Istanbul on the northern shore of the Golden Horn.

Many people used to work in Galata, close to sea level, and live uphill in Pera, about 60 meters higher.

The only direct street connecting the two, Yüksek Kaldırım, is steep and narrow; at the time of the construction of Tünel, it was crowded with 40,000 pedestrians a day. Gavand conceived of Tünel as a kind of elevator ascending and descending that would greatly ease the journey.

After two years of negotiations, Gavand received permission from Ottoman Sultan Abdul Aziz to start the project, with a 42-year concession to operate it.