The high-speed train that will have its debut in Turkey this week. Photo via Sakarya54.net
Americans aren't the only ones newly enamored of high-speed rail. Turkey's first fast train makes its official debut this week, but railway officials are already envisioning a network spanning the country, which has been woefully under-served by train routes of any kind. (Though Turkey's long-haul bus system puts Greyhound to shame.)From 1923, the year the modern Turkish republic was founded, to 1946, the country laid 128 kilometers of rail each year. But for the 50-odd years following, from 1946 to 2003, the industry went almost stagnant, with only 11 kilometers of rail being added annually. The aging system didn't get a boost until 2003, when rail-line construction picked up again and plans for the country's first high-speed train were initially laid out.
That first fast line, between the capital city, Ankara, and Eskişehir, about 210 kilometers away, will have its coming-out party on Friday. Test runs show it should cut the travel time between the two cities from 180 minutes to 70 or 80 minutes. The train will make eight round-trips a day, carrying up to 419 passengers and will include a business section with power outlets to charge laptops, eight cafeterias, and LCD screens for watching TV at each seat.
This is just the first phase of a project that will eventually link the country's two major cities, Ankara and Istanbul. Running at speeds of up to 250 kilometers per hour, it should cut the currently six-and-half-hour trip in half.
A high-speed line between Ankara and Konya, also in central Turkey, is on track (so to speak) for next year, and rapid rail between Ankara and Sivas, further to the east, is also in the works. The Turkish State Railways (TCDD) plans to connect the western cities of Istanbul, İzmir, Bursa, Balıkesir, Adapazarı and Kocaeli with high-speed trains by 2013.
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