It was 1856 when the story of railways first started to be narrated as part of the development story of Turkey. When Sultan Abdülhamid II commissioned an English contractor with the construction of the İzmir-Aydın railway line, he worked on the continuous expansion of the railways that went all the way to Hejaz. By the time the Republic was founded in 1923, the length of the railway lines in Anatolia reached 4,559 kilometers (2,838 miles). As part of the two-phased five-year development plan, the Republican government and bureaucrats accelerated the construction of the railway, therefore weaving an additional 4,100-kilometer-long railway line in Turkey.
By 1940, there was an 8,600-kilometer-long railway line across the country. In the 2000s, Turkey was aware that the existing railways lines were not enough to drive economic development. So, in 2003 Turkey saw the launch of the first high-speed rail line between Ankara and Istanbul and 2009 was the year when the first high-speed rail line became operational between Ankara and Eskişehir. From that day on, the country has shown strength in developing and building more high speed railway lines to increase connectivity to international trade routes.
Ahmet Arslan, the minister of Transportation, Maritime Affairs and Communications, said the ministry has connected all four sides of Turkey with high-speed rail lines, adding that the construction of a total of 1,213 kilometers in high-speed rail lines have been completed so far and a 3,000-kilometer-long line is being constructed. The ministry is also conducting exploration and project works on an additional high speed rail line of 5,277 kilometers.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA), Arslan remarked that work on railways has gained momentum in the past 14 years and that the investment in railway infrastructure has exceeded the investment in highways.
Arslan underlined that the investment allowance allocated to the construction of railways this year is above TL 11.3 billion ($3.2 billion), saying, "We are making our investments to create infrastructure for high-speed rail lines in our country in particular."
Arslan said that high-speed trains were first introduced to Turkey in 2009, noting that the length of high speed rail lines so far has reached 1,213 kilometers, continuing, "And, our goal is to build high-speed rail networks all across the country. We are building high-speed rail networks that enable one to travel over 250 kilometers per hour in regions where there are favorable ground conditions and slopes. In the regions not suitable for 250 kilometers per hour, we are building high-speed rail lines that can travel at 200 kilometers per hour. Also, we are now continuing to construct 3,000-kilometer high-speed rail lines that will connect all four sides of our country."
Ankara-İzmir high speed rail line to open in 2019
According to Arslan, the construction work on the Ankara-Afyonkarahisar-Uşak-Manisa-İzmir high-speed rail line is continuing at full speed, and the line will be inaugurated in 2019.
Moreover, the construction work on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) railway project and the Ankara-Kırıkkale-Yozgat-Sivas high-speed rail line, which is one of the most important lines in the continuous railway project from Beijing to London, is continuing gradually and the projects will be completed in 2018. Infrastructure construction work on another high-speed rail line that will reduce the distance between Ankara and Sivas to 405 kilometers has reached 75 percent in all sections, while the tender process for the superstructure work on the project is still on the way. The construction of the Bursa Bilecik, Konya-Karaman-Ulukışla (Niğde) and Mersin-Adana-Osmaniye-Gaziantep high-speed rail lines is continuing.
Arslan further noted that they are continuing to conduct exploration and project preparation work on high-speed rail lines of 5,277 kilometers - Kayseri-Yerköy, Halkalı-Kapıkule, Aksaray-Ulukışla (Niğde) -Yenice (Mersin), Kayseri-Nevşehir-Aksaray-Konya-Antalya and Sivas-Malatya - adding that they plan to complete this work on a 2,622-kilometer-long section by the end of 2017.
Underlining that the 124 kilometer-long Gebze-Sabiha Gökçen Airport-Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge high-speed rail line is an important project that will support the railway traffic between the Asian and European sides of Istanbul, Arslan said they aim to include this project in the Investment Program within this year.