Mayor brushes Marmaray concerns aside as engineers issue safety warnings

Mayor brushes Marmaray concerns aside as engineers issue safety warnings

Mayor brushes Marmaray concerns aside as engineers issue safety warnings

Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş answers questions after his meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. AA Photo

The Istanbul mayor has sought to assuage safety concerns about the Marmaray undersea tunnel project ahead of its inauguration, saying that all potential risks have been addressed in detail.

“All possibilities have been taken into consideration in all seriousness,” said Mayor Kadir Topbaş, speaking after his 30-minute meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who arrived in Istanbul on Oct. 28 to attend the Marmaray inauguration.

Answering reporters’ questions after the meeting at Istanbul’s Çırağan Palace, Topbaş stressed that the trial runs of the rail tunnel that will connect Istanbul’s European and Asian sides under the Bosporus Strait had been completed successfully, according to Doğan News Agency.

“These tests take every possibility into account. All hitches have been repaired. We’re informed that there are no problems now,” he said, adding the test drives for the Golden Horn passage section were still continuing.

The mayor’s remarks came a few hours after a press meeting organized by the Chamber of Architects and Engineers (TMMOB) aimed at warning the authorities and the public about the potential risks of the project, which will be partially opened on Oct. 29.

Süleyman Solmaz, a senior TMMOB representative, pointed to the potential weaknesses of the tunnel, saying “it would be murder to open it under these conditions.”

Solmaz quoted an engineer who worked for eight years on the project, Rıza Behçet Akça, as saying, “I wouldn’t get in [the Marmaray] and nobody should.”

He said the tubes used for the undersea passage were linked flexibly and in the event of any rupture in these connections the tunnel would be filled with water. “No measures have been taken against this or any other scenario,” Solmaz said.

He also claimed that the section of the tunnel that will be opened in the first stage lacks an electronic security system. “The tube that will be opened now doesn’t have security center,” he said, adding that although it has been claimed that an additional 10 million euro investment will be made, this investment would not solve such a problem.

As the grand opening of the 13.6-kilometer tunnel approaches, criticism against the project has steadily grown, mostly with regard to its safety.

The project, which includes a 1.4-kilometer immersed tube tunnel - the deepest of its kind in the world at 60 meters - has been attacked for being constructed hastily without taking such risks into consideration.

Mostly, the project’s durability in the event of an earthquake has been questioned, as the Marmara region is a major earthquake zone.

Attempting to answer these concerns, last week Transport Minister Binali Yıldırım had said the design would be resistant to a more than 9.0-magnitude quake and would be “the safest place in Istanbul.”