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The Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) has signed an ODA loan totalling ¥98.732bn (US$937mn) with the government of Turkey for the Bosphorus Rail Tube Crossing Project.

The project is aimed at improving traffic congestion and reducing air pollution in the centre of Istanbul by constructing a subway line (13.6km long with four stations) that crosses the Bosphorus, the strait which separates the European and Asian continents. This is the second ODA loan for this project, following the first loan of ¥12.464bn (US$118mn) in 1999.
Istanbul is in a strategically important location as a transport route linking Asia and Europe. It is a major city with a population of 10mn and is at the centre of Turkey’s commerce and trade. While the city’s transport modalities include railways and ferries, it is the roads that carry 92% of the total traffic volume. The increasing number of motor vehicles in recent years has caused chronic congestion in the centre of the city. Vehicle emissions during congestion are also responsible for increasingly severe air pollution. In particular, more than 380,000 vehicles use the two bridges (with a design capacity for only 270,000 passages per day) across the Bosphorus, which separates the commercial district on the European side of Istanbul and the residential areas on the Asian side.

Japan’s latest technology and know-how has been used for building the section crossing the Bosphorus – an underground portion spanning about 1.6km. This includes designing the structural strength to withstand an earthquake of magnitude 7.5 on the Richter scale and minimising water pollution in the strait during the construction work. When completed, this will be the world’s deepest immersed tube tunnel project (a method that uses tunnel blocks 100m long, which are built on land then towed into the sea and connected).

JBIC worked in partnership with the Unesco World Heritage Centre from the planning stage with a view to protecting Turkey’s cultural heritage. Studies were conducted on how to preserve historic buildings affected by subway construction, as well as how to respond when historical or archeological ruins are uncovered during digging.