Construction of the New Mount Zigana Tunnel, connecting the Black Sea cities of Gümüşhane and Trabzon, will be complete by next year with nearly half of the tunnel already complete, according to authorities.

The 14.5 kilometre twin-tube tunnel, the largest of its kind in Europe, lies on a section of the ancient Silk Road that connects the eastern Black Sea region to Iran and Asia. Ercan Çimen, mayor of Gümüşhane province, said 52 percent of the construction is completed. The tunnel is located on the main road connecting Gümüşhane to Trabzon province and its foundation was laid in March 2017.

The tunnel consists of two tubes with a combined length of 29 kilometres. It has two entrances, one in Köstere village of Gümüşhane and the other in the Başarköy village of Trabzon.

From the Trabzon entrance, motorists will climb to 1,264 meters from 1,015 meters. It is located at a far lower altitude compared to the Mount Ovit Tunnel, also located in the region, running at an altitude of 1,800 meters.

The Zigana tunnel will shorten the distance between Gümüşhane and Trabzon by 40 minutes, allowing motorists an easier route than the challenging Zigana pass. The tunnel will cost about TL 1 billion.

Authorities said it is only rivalled by Zhongnanshan, an 18-kilometre long twin tube tunnel in China’s Shaanxi. Mayor Çimen said the tunnel would greatly facilitate travel between the Black Sea and regions in its south, like Southeastern and Eastern Anatolia.

Once completed, Zigana will surpass Ovit in length. Like Zigana, Ovit is located on a strategic trade route. Combined with ongoing road projects, it will provide an uninterrupted link between the Turkish leg of Silk Road and the Ural Mountains.