Turkey's mainline trains, which were suspended in March last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, will start operating again with 12 different routes into the country’s Anatolian hinterland, offering passengers a unique experience from north to south and east to west.
The operations of the trains, including the Eastern Express, the famous route that runs from the capital Ankara to Turkey's snow-covered east, were suspended on March 28, 2020, and will resume as of July 12 this year according to the Turkish State Railways (TCDD).
The change has come as part of the gradual normalization period in the country that was kicked off after new COVID-19 cases dropped significantly and the vaccination rate increased nationwide.
Recently, a new regulation was also revealed regarding the resumption of high-speed trains.
The newly resumed lines include the Eastern Express, the Southern Express, the Lake Van Express, the Pamukkale Express, the 9th of September Express, the Ankara Express, the Euphrates Express, the Erciyes Express, the Aegean Express, Konya Blue, Izmir Blue and the Lakes Express.
The Eastern Express travels from the capital Ankara to eastern Kars province and became extremely popular after people started sharing photos of the scenery on social media. The popularity made TCDD put a new train into service on the same line solely for tourism after it became so popular that people trying to reach eastern Turkey by train could no longer find tickets.
Before the popularity of the express, the average age of passengers was 50, while university students, photographers, tourists and influencers soon became the biggest groups to travel on the line before the pandemic.
Photographers and videographers are frequent passengers, as the experience provides a wealth of landscapes and vistas, especially during wintertime.
After leaving Ankara, the Eastern Express makes brief stops in the eastern cities of Kırıkkale, Kayseri, Sivas, Erzincan and Erzurum before reaching Kars.
The Southern Express, also known as the Kurtalan Express, offers a trip to the East through southern Turkey. The route was founded over 75 years ago.
Continuing nonstop since its opening before the pandemic, the express is one of the first choices of adventure seekers that want to take a cultural tour through Anatolia.
The Kurtalan Express makes more than 70 stops, especially in Kırıkkale, Kayseri, Sivas, Malatya, Elazığ, Diyarbakır and Batman, along the 1,212-kilometer route from the first station to the last.
Among the newly resumed lines, the Lake Van Express, which connects Ankara with Kayseri, Sivas, Malatya, Elazığ and Tatvan on the western shore of Lake Van, is also a long route that takes over 27 hours to complete.
The Pamukkale Express, also a significant line to boost local tourism, connects Eskişehir, Istanbul and Ankara with Denizli, where tourists can visit one of Turkey's most famous cities, Pamukkale, which means "cotton castle" in Turkish and boasts picturesque travertine hot springs.
The TCDD, while maintaining and renewing the wagons of the mainline trains, took necessary measures against the pandemic with all the disinfection procedures being carried out before resuming operations.
The mainline trains connecting different cities feature four different types of wagons: pullman, covered bunk, sleeping and dining wagons.
With the restarting of such train journeys, domestic tourism is expected to gain momentum in many cities and towns with historical, natural and cultural richness.
The demand is also expected to be high during the upcoming Qurban Bayram, or Eid al-Adha holiday.
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