Marmaray, the project of linking Europe and Asia by rail under Bosphorus, opened partially last week.
And then started the heavy discussions.
After a week, it’s easier to summarize what has happened, what are the claims and answers. Here is everything about Marmaray discussions:
Blackout was the biggest surprise in first public day of Marmaray, repeated one more time later. Passengers had to walk to nearest station.
In an interview published in Hurriyet, the CEO of the Anel, which installed power systems of Marmaray, told that blackouts would never happen.
After this blackout in the first day, Anel declared that they’re responsible for the lumination of the project area, but not for the power lines of the railcars.
Then explanation came from Transportation Minister, Mr Binali Yildirim, that problem is related with the city power system.
That supported the criticisms of a retired engineer, Mr Riza Behcet Akcan. He told, before start, that the power distribution units of Marmaray will be completed in second phase. Opening of first phase pushed system to be fed by temporary units and maybe even by city power network which created and will continue to create these blackouts.
Marmaray railcars stopped on way, between stations, a number of times, especially in first 3 days. Some solved in a few minutes, and some lasted more and caused increasing tension.
The stops were explained by the overcrowded and usage of emergency brakes in the railcars by Mr Suleyman Karaman, head of TCDD. Some newspapers even accused opponents for this. Since no camera records nor witnesses about these incidents exist, this is not accepted as an answer by everyone. On the other hand, on the 5th day of Marmaray, inspectors started to travel and stoppages seem to end.
This stoppages were explained as the result of insufficient tests and again partial start of project by Association of Engineers, mainly based on the information given by Mr Akcan. It’s told that the control center of Marmaray will be in Maltepe, and will be completed in second phase of the project, so a temporary center was constructed in Uskudar to open the first phase which created these problems. Since the automatic control systems are not running, in case of any emergency (including false usage of emergency button), all trains should stop and wait until the reason is discovered.
Rush into Early Opening
Another criticism was that project rushed into an early opening because of political preferences, and that also caused additional problems. A statement of Mr Metin Tahan took place on newspapers. He told that he forced technical team to sign paper saying that they’ll commit suicide if project is not completed at the announced date.
The Marmaray project faced with overcrowd as the result of 15-days-free announcement. Both mayor of Istanbul, Mr Kadir Topbas and Mr Karaman told that people are using Marmaray several times even without getting out of the stations and touching everywhere because of curiosity. There’s also a closed station in between, Sirkeci, which is told to be closed because of crowded.
This started another discussion about the capacity. The capacity of Marmaray was told to be 70000/hour. On the most crowded day of Marmaray, Sunday, 350000 passenger were carried. “Then the capacity must be less than announced” told some experts.
Mr Karaman told that 70000/hour capacity will be effective after project is completed. He also added that not so big crowd was expected, and now they’re trying to increase capacity to fulfill the demand.
Explanation about Sirkeci station came from Mr Topbas. Sirkeci, he said, is the deepest station with very long escalators. Overcrowd might cause stoppages and that would create big problems especially for kids and elders.
Settle of Some Tubes and Earthquake Risk
This was a discussion started prior to opening. It is told that due to loose ground, some tubes settled which means tunnel is not secure enough especially for soon-coming earthquake.
Mr Yildirim confirmed that during the construction they faced with loose ground, but solved that problem by cement injection. He also told that many security precautions exist for the earthquake and the skyscrapers are more risky than the tunnel in Istanbul.
Main criticisms about the route was that Marmaray is not on the right part of the Bosphorus to solve the traffic problem of city. Marmaray tunnel is on the south end of the Bosphorus where city began to shift to north with new projects including 3rd bridge.
It’s true that Marmary is not passing through the dense parts of the city. On the other hand, since Marmaray is going to use the existing route of old suburban trains of İstanbul, constructing the 63 km part of total 76,5 km will be far cheaper than constructing a metro line. Municipality is trying to increase the usage by connecting transportation network with Marmaray from several points. Furthermore, the shift of city to north was another criticism, where north of İstanbul is full of forest, so Marmaray may support keeping the city in south.
Additionally, Marmaray is not only a solution for city traffic, but also the connection of railway network between Asia and Europe. Thus, connecting two existing railway lines was also critical on the start of the project. Considering that the connection was closed 21 months ago and there is no more railway traffic between two continents since than, connection is looking forward to by industry as well. There will be an alternative connection between continents for the future. The 3rd bridge, with railway on it, will connect continents by rail as well. However it’s not declared if the lines on 3rd bridge will be only used by high speed trains or will also be open to freight traffic.
Delays of Project
Another criticism is the delay of the project. Marmaray was planned to open on 2009, but because of the archaeological works, as told by Transportation Ministry, it delayed for 4 years. That’s what also Prime Minister, Mr Erdogan complained. Since the route is passing under the old city, that might be guessed, of course. And since the rest of the project, which is going over ground, within the area of old suburban lines, will last 2 more years, it’s not clearly understood why second phase had not been given priority during archaeological works.
The experiences during the stoppages and other problems started another discussion if the emergency plans are prepared, tested and well enough or not. Mr Yildirim told that there are walkways for passing to other tube in case of emergency.
Limitations for Press
As the first blackout and other problems hit in first day of Marmaray when a lot of journalists were there, the problems took large place in main stream media. This was criticized by goverment, and afterwards some journalists told that staff is preventing their activities.
This was explained by Mr Karaman that staff was trying to guard/accompany journalists since lots of people are angry with the newspapers because of these bad news about Marmaray.
Photo: Onur Uysal