I travel a lot in Turkey, just as I did over 30 years ago, when I visited Turkey for the first time. The hospitality of its people, the historic sites and natural wonders remain the same, but the infrastructure has changed dramatically. In the ‘80’s there was just one Bosporus crossing, while by the end of 2016 there will be five. And there was no metro in Istanbul – but by the end of this decade there will be between 500 and 700 km’s of metro lines.
The last few weeks I flew from several Turkish airports, used a high speed train, took the metro (of course) and drove on high ways. I was impressed by all that was going on, all that is planned. The future and well-being of a country is not determined by asphalt, iron, cement and stones alone, but without good infrastructure much of other developments remain under-utilized.
I have already written several blogs on infrastructure in and around Istanbul, an area where unprecedented activities are being undertaken in Istanbul. From all the existing infrastructural projects the least known is the ‘Marmara Ring Project’ that was launched in 2011. Plan is to construct a motorway and a (fast speed) rail road around the Sea of Marmara.
The sea of Marmara
The Marmara Sea region at presents hosts almost 30 % of Turkey’s population and it generates more than 40% of the national GDP. The sea of Marmara, with a surface of 11,500 square kilometers and a maximum depth of 1,350 meters, lies comfortably between the Black Sea and the Mediterrean. It is connected with these two seas by the Bosporus in the North and the Dardanelles in the South. Driving around it takes over 600 km.
Fast Speed Train and Bridges
The initial projection is that the ‘Marmara Ring Project’ will be completed in 2019. Aside from the modernization and construction of a modern rail road line, the ‘Marmara Ring’requires bridges over the Bosphorus and Kocaeli bay as well over the Dardanelles.
There will be 12 train stations connecting all cities in the shoreline, ranging from Çanakkale/Dardanelles to Istanbul. Two trains will be continuously transporting goods and passengers on both sides of Marmara Sea. It will then take an hour or so to commute between Çanakkale and Istanbul, about 323 km.
Most of the motorway is already completed, but awaits the (final) construction of 3 bridges (Bosporus, Yalova and across the Dardanelles near Çanakkale).
A Turkish Randstad, but with a blue heart
The Marmara ring road can be more than a railroad and a motorway; it can also be a concept, a kind of ‘Randstad’, not with a green heart as in The Netherlands, but with a large ‘lake’ in the middle, that if well inter-connected with the right economic policies could lead to further growth in this important region of Turkey.