ANKARA - Test runs of the high-speed train between the capital Ankara and the Anatolian city of Eskişehir have been completed and tests with passengers onboard are set to start by the end of February, the transport minister says
Yıldırım held a press conference yesterday to promote the ministry’s 2008 activities and provided information about future projects.
Stating that construction of the high-speed train line between Ankara and Eskişehir started in 2003, Yıldırım said delays stemmed from the project’s difficulty. Similar projects had taken at least eight years in Europe, he said.
"Tests runs and certification processes are over. There are only two small problems. Security measures will be taken at the railroad crossings in Ankara’s Sincan and Atatürk Forest Farm, (or A.O.Ç.)," he said. "Test runs of the high-speed train between Ankara and Eskişehir have been completed and test runs with passengers will start at the end of February at the latest."
Yıldırım said the the infrastructure for another high-speed train line between Ankara and Konya had been completed and services would begin in 2010. The building of a high-speed line between Ankara and Sivas had also started and construction work was also underway along the Baku, Kars and Tbilisi line. Freight transportation via rail had increased by 43 percent, but only 10 percent in passenger transportation.
"Some 1,400 kilometers of railroads are currently being built. The average length of railroads built each year in the period from 1923 to 1946 was 128 kilometers, but only 11 kilometers between 1946 and 2003. After 2003, the figure rose to 107 kilometers. We still lag behind figures attained during the period of modern Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk," he said.
Target 17,000-kilometers of dual carriageway in 2009
Turkey will have a 17,000-kilometer dual carriageway in 2009 and a 22,500-kilometer carriageway in 2011, Yıldırım said.
He said the ministry’s investments would continue in 2009 despite the global financial crisis, with big projects gaining impetus especially in the second half of 2009. Recalling that the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, promised a 15,000-kilometer dual-carriageway project in 2003, Yıldırım said the ministry had enlarged its targets.
"We will convert more than one-third of Turkey’s highway network into dual carriageways. We have already built a highway over 2,000-kilometers long, including a 1,500-kilometer dual-carriageway and its impact on traffic safety is already visible.
"Some 64 percent decrease was achieved in the road-accident rate and 89 percent in the road death rate, 73 percent in injuries and 65 percent in material damage," he said and added the project would be undertaken between Ankara and İzmir, Afyonkarahisar and Antalya, Ankara and Çankırı, Şanlıurfa and Habur, Bozöyük and Mekece and the Bursa, Balıkesir and İzmir lines.
Yıldırım said they also had achievements in the field of air and sea transport, and information technology. They changed the perception of air transport, making its use a need, instead of a privilege. Six million people used air transport for the first time in a six month period.
Flight points increased from 78 to 115 and the number of passengers carried by air transport exceeded 74 million in 2008. New terminal buildings will be built in Hatay, Kayseri, Erzincan, Sivas, Batman and Kars airports. The airport construction projects for Bingöl, Iğdır, Hakkari (Yüksekova) and Şırnak will also be included in the ministry’s 2009 program. The implementation of a new zero special consumption tax on fuel in the maritime industry was a kind of revolution, said Yıldırım.
"Sea transport carried 150 million passengers and 8 million vehicles in 2008, representing an increase of 50 percent in passengers and 71 percent in vehicle transport," he said, and added the number of navy yards had increased from 37 in 2002 to 92 in 2008.
Yıldırım also said the practice of mobile phone number portability that allowed 700,000 customers to keep their phone numbers when switching operators was another major development. Internet access was provided to 40,000 schools in rural areas and the service area for mobile phones was also expanded.