ISTANBUL – Turkey has completed a section of train tracks that could one day take passengers from London to Beijing, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday.
The “modern Silk Road Project,” also called Central Corridor, connects the European and Asian sides of Istanbul.
It provides direct connections between Bulgaria in the west and the Turkish capital Ankara in the east, although no official route has been formally established between the two countries, Turkey’s General Directorate of Railways told EFE.
“This is the Istanbul part of the Silk Road that starts in London and ends in Beijing,” said Erdogan, adding, “with this new route, a person can go from London to Beijing.”
Erdogan sat in the cabin and drove the first train to provide a service from Kartal station in Europe to the Maltepe terminal on the city’s Asian side.
Around 1.7 million passengers are expected to use the 63 kilometer-long (39 miles) railway line daily, the state rail service said.
Work on the stretch, which includes more than 35 stations, began in 2004 and has reportedly cost 1.38 billion euros ($1.6 billion).
“This line will transport 1.7 million people daily and it will be able to ease the traffic of Istanbul,” Erdogan said.
The infrastructure has three separate railway lines, two for commuter trains and one for high-speed service, and was according to Turkish State Railways the world’s longest urban and also intercontinental rail link.
It will extend the high-speed lines from the current terminus in the Pendik district of Istanbul on the Asian side through to the station in the Halkali district, on the European side, Erdogan added.
The Marmaray tunnel under the Bosporus, that connects Asia and Europe in Istanbul, was inaugurated in 2013, an engineering achievement in which the Spanish construction company OHL participated.
The Transport Workers Union accused the government of having brought the inauguration forward to coincide with campaigning for local elections due on March 31 without having fully completed the necessary safety checks that were due and warned of the risk of accidents.