Cairo: Egyptian President Abdul Fattah Al Sissi Sunday inaugurated a massive tunnel system built under the Suez Canal as part of his administration’s efforts to increasingly linking the Sinai Peninsula to the mainland.

The four tunnels cut a car journey from the coastal city of Esmailia to Sinai by about 20 minutes. Each facility is 4,830 metres long and 45 metres deep.

“Unprecedented efforts are being made in Sinai,” Al Sissi said in remarks at a televised ceremony in Esmailia, one of the Suez Canal’s three cities.

Each two-lane tunnel can handle up to 2,000 cars every hour, Maj. Gen. Ihab Al Far, the chief of the army engineering authority, said at the ceremony.

Al Sissi said the army’s role in such projects is “supervisory and administrative”, putting aside rumours of an allegedly leading military engagement in civil sectors.

The tunnels cost around 12 billion Egyptian pounds (Dh2.5 billion), according to Egyptian media.

They were opened along with other schemes, including a new residential community, named New Esmailia, a major water treatment plant and bridges.

Al Sissi put at 800 billion Egyptian pounds the cost of development schemes carried out in the Suez Canal zone, which comprises provinces of Esmailia, Suez, Port Saeed, North and South Sinai.

State media described the projects as initiating a major development drive in Sinai, once a hotbed of Islamist militancy.

Since taking office in 2014, Al Sissi has launched a series of mega-projects including an expansion to the historical Suez Canal, and a new administrative capital east of Cairo.

Egypt is setting up an ambitious logistical and trade hub in the Suez zone.