Istanbul’s massive Marmaray Metro Project finally conducted its first test run Aug.4, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan praising Istanbul’s latest mode of transportation while attending the test drive ceremony before boarding the train at Kazlıçeşme.
The wagons, which were previously housed at the Sirkeci train station, had been brought to the tunnel several days before as the train conducted test runs with sand bags loaded on its coaches ahead of the prime minister’s attendance.
Erdoğan boarded the train a few minutes after his opening speech, where he highlighted the need for “new steps” for Istanbul’s ever-growing capacity.
“Istanbul can’t respond to needs anymore. Our transportation limitations are severe. Then we take different precautions. We will have to make things in different parts of Istanbul, perhaps go down another level – maybe two, three levels. Istanbul cannot handle 15 million people anymore. We need these precautions,” the prime minister said.
Erdoğan added that the project was “the dream of 150 years.”
“Our ancestors worked on [the project]. It fell to us to realize it,” Erdoğan said.
The first ever Marmaray ride was conducted by the prime minister himself, who proceeded towards the front of the train to direct it. The train, under Erdoğan’s control, passed under the Bosphorus several minutes later.
The trains are scheduled to leave from Ayrılıkçeşme on the Asian side, but it is not clear whether they will complete the entire 13.6-kilometer track to Kazlıçeşme on the European side. Officials will also begin to test possible crash scenarios in September.
Two different lines of speed trains will soon be joined into the Marmaray route, rounding up to a massive 63 kilometers transportation course through the city. The total cost with the combined projects will reach 9 billion Turkish Liras.
Each of the stations will be decorated with a different theme, according to Anadolu agency. Over 13,000 meters of tunnels are included in the project.
The Marmaray Metro project has dominated public debate for years now, and is known to have the complete support of Erdoğan, who said the opening ceremony would take place on Oct. 29, the country’s Republic Day.
The biggest obstacle to the project’s completion has been the discovery of 40,000 artifacts at Yenikapı. The artifacts were removed with the assistance of the Transportation Ministry and other state authorities, but were then put into depots due to budget constraints.
The discoveries enraged Erdoğan, who said, “First [they said] there was archaeological stuff, then it was clay pots, then this, then that. Is any of this stuff more important than people?”