|Turkey fulfills old dream with opening of mega tunnel||
Turkey opened the world's first underwater rail link between two continents on Tuesday, connecting Asia and Europe and allowing the Turkish government to realize a project dreamt up more than a century ago.
The engineering feat spans 13 km (8 miles) to link Europe with Asia some 60 meters below the Bosphorus Strait. Called the Marmaray, it will carry subway commuters in Europe's biggest city and eventually serve high-speed and freight trains, Reuters reported.
The 5.5 billion lira ($2.8 billion) tunnel is one of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's "mega projects," an unprecedented building spree designed to change the face of Turkey.
They include a 50-km canal to rival the Suez that would render half of Istanbul an island, an airport that will be the world's busiest and a giant mosque atop an Istanbul hill.
The inauguration of the ambitious scheme -- dubbed "the project of the century" by the government -- coincided with the 90th anniversary of the founding of modern Turkey.
The idea was first floated by Ottoman sultan Abdoul Medjid in 1860 but technical equipment at the time was not good enough to take the project further.
Erdogan's critics accuse him of bringing forward the inauguration of the Bosphorus tunnel in time for municipal elections in March 2014.
The project will not be fully operational immediately and construction is expected to continue for several more years.
According to AFP, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was present at the official opening ceremony, as the Japan Bank for International Cooperation was the main financer contributing 735 million euros ($1 billion) to the project.
Construction of the tunnel started in 2004 and had been scheduled to take four years but was delayed after a series of major archaeological discoveries.
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