Turkey Inaugurates Ankara-Istanbul High Speed Train

Manila Bulletin, July 27, 2014 | Go to article overview

Turkey Inaugurates Ankara-Istanbul High Speed Train


Ankara Turkey on Friday inaugurates the first high-speed train link between its main cities of Ankara and Istanbul, in the latest bid by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to modernise the country's infrastructure. After years of constant delays that has seen the project become a standing joke among Turks, Erdogan on Friday evening is due to glide into Istanbul aboard the first train. The opening comes ahead of presidential elections on August 10 that are expected to see Erdogan sweep to victory as head of state, after a campaign in which he has constantly boasted of his efforts to improve transportation in Turkey. But the project has been hit by repeated postponements of the opening date and mishaps -- including when one of the new trains crashed into a maintenance vehicle this month. The line will not terminate in the centre of Istanbul, but on the Asian side of the Bosphorus in the suburb of Pendik, some two hours from the centre in the city's often heavy traffic. There are safety concerns too: train accidents are frequent on Turkey's network and in 2004 dozens of people were killed when a newly-inaugurated high-speed train derailed in the northwest. Yet, with an intense if belated advertising campaign -- TV adverts show smiling children waving at the train as it surges through the fields -- the government is now pulling out all the stops to make it a success. Connecting east and west Erdogan, whose Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has dominated politics for over a decade, presents himself the man leading Turkey's transformation into a modern country with a European standard of living and infrastructure. Last year he inaugurated the Marmaray tunnel, which for the first time connects Istanbul's two sides -- where Europe and Asia meet -- with a metro link deep underground beneath the waters of the Bosphorus. …

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