After seven years of construction and renovation works, the Başkentray suburban line of Turkish capital Ankara entered into service on Thursday with an inauguration ceremony attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other Turkish officials.
The 36-kilometer "Başkentray" will operate on 15 tracks and 23 stations between the eastern suburb of Kayaş, the city center, and Sincan suburb to the west of the capital, according to the Turkish State Railways (TCDD).
During the opening ceremony, Erdoğan said Ankara had taken remarkable steps in modernizing the urban setting over the past 15 years.
He said the renovated line will be free of charge until 24 April.
Also speaking at the ceremony, Prime Minister Yıldırım said the project cost around 1.23 billion Turkish liras (nearly $300 million). Yıldırım said the project was completed in 20 months.
The prime minister also said that the station buildings for the Eryaman high-speed rail station have been completed for the residents of Yıldırım, Yenimahalle, Sincan and Etimesgut to benefit from the high-speed rail line.
Yıldırım stressed that the Başkentray project has reduced the travel duration from Kayaş to Sincan to 45 minutes and all stations are designed for the convenience of people with disabilities.
The commuter line has been undergoing renovation work for the past seven years, and the line was completely closed in July 2016 for the final phase of construction. In order to serve high speed trains, conventional trains and freight trains alongside the suburban system, the number of signalized and electrified tracks has been increased to four between the Ankara Train Station and Kayaş, five between Ankara Train Station and Behiçbey, and six between the Behiçbey and Sincan stations.
As part of the project, a new central high speed rail station entered into service in October 2016, while all 23 stations located on the line have been renovated or completely rebuilt. Eleven road underpasses were also built.
The service frequency will initially be every fifteen minutes. Başkentray is expected to carry 500,000 commuters daily with departures every five minutes on 96 cars.
The line is integrated into the capital's M1 metro line at Yenişehir - Sıhhiye, M4 metro line at Gar (Train Station), and with the light metro system Ankaray at two stations in Kurtuluş and Maltepe.
Ankara's transport payment card "Ankarakart" will also be valid on the Başkentray system.
The line was first introduced in the late Ottoman period in 1892, while the suburban service was launched in 1929 and electrified in 1972.
As part of Turkey's efforts to modernize its rail network in the last decade, a similar suburban rail project named İZBAN also entered into service in the western province of İzmir in 2010, connecting thenorthern district of Aliağa with the city center, Adnan Menderes Airport, and the southern district of Selçuk on a line stretching 136 kilometers, serving at 40 stations. When extended to Bergama district, the length of the suburban line will reach 185 kilometers.
Another suburban line renovation project named Marmaray is ongoing in Istanbul with currently five stations in operation. The first tunnel crossing the Bosporus was built for the Marmaray project, and the line has been connecting two stations on the Asian side with three others on the European side since 2013. When fully completed in December 2018, the system will serve on a 76-kilometer line with 40 stations between the western suburb of Halkalı and the district of Gebze in Kocaeli province bordering Istanbul to its east.