Turkey’s much anticipated high-speed train service, which cost 8.6 billion Turkish Lira (US$ 4.1 billion) between Istanbul and Ankara, has begun operating from Istanbul’s Pendik station, Turkish daily ‘Hurriyet’ reports.
The high-speed service, has reduced the travel time between Istanbul and Ankara to three-and-a-half hours, cutting the journey time in half.
For the first week of operation, journeys will be free of charge. Train driver Özdemir Sırmagül on Saturday, told Anadolu Agency that the 409-passenger capacity train was full as a result of intense interest and the fact most Turkish citizens were on holiday for the feast to mark the end of Ramadan, creating an increased demand for transport. Twelve trains will run in the first week, Sırmagül added.
Tickets for the Ankara-Istanbul service are priced at 70 lira, which children aged under seven can ride free of charge.
Children between the ages of 1 and 12 pay 35 liras. Discounted tickets are also available for students (55 liras) and senior citizens (35 liras).
The high-speed rail service was first introduced in 2009 running between Ankara and Eskişehir. The latest line links Eskişehir to Istanbul – joining Turkey’s political and financial capitals. The original route has proved immensely popular with Turkish passengers, carrying 15 million since its launch, Turkish State Railways said. An estimated 7.5 million passengers are expected to use the new line.
The long-awaited train service which was carrying Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, his wife Emine, dignitaries and journalists was finally inaugurated on 25th July, only to break down several hours later.
The journey was interrupted by a technical problem in İzmit when one of the contact wires malfunctioned. After the dislocated wire cracked the windshield, the train stopped and technical teams fixed the problem within a half hour.
Earlier, Prime Minister Erdoğan had denounced “saboteurs” for delaying the opening of the project.
The new addition to the country’s high-speed network means 1,420 kilometres of track can now carry the faster trains. There are plans to increase the network to 3,500 kilometres by the centenary of the Turkish Republic in 2023.