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New tram cars to smooth Istanbul commutes

ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News | 1/2/2011 12:00:00 AM |

The jam-packed tram lines between Istanbul’s Kabataş, Zeytinburnu and Bağcılar districts are to get a little breathing room with the addition of 37 new tram cars to the two popular routes.

The jam-packed tram lines between Istanbul’s Kabataş, Zeytinburnu and Bağcılar districts are to get a little breathing room with the addition of 37 new tram cars to the two popular routes. The Istanbul Municipality has also finished pedestrianizing Sultanahmet Square to protect the texture of the historical peninsula.

Ninety streets on the peninsula closed to private vehicular traffic starting from Saturday.

“Due to the lack of cars among the Kabataş, Zeytinburnu and Bağcılar districts, commuters using the tram were experiencing hardships. By providing 37 new low-lying cars furnished with advanced technology and air-conditioning, we will smooth the commute,” said the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality Mayor Kadir Topbaş, introducing the low-lying cars to members of the press on Friday, the last day of 2010.

Twelve of the 37 new cars, which will decrease the time between trains to a snappy two minutes, were activated on Friday. The new additions increase the number of cars available for the two tram lines to a total of 92. The final 25 cars will enter service next month. So far, 71 million euros have been spent on the project.

While piloting a test drive with members of the press from Kabataş to the Sultanahmet tram station, Topbaş suddenly braked two times, causing many press members falling on the ground. Cameramen lost their balance and some reporters who couldn’t grab the support poles hurt their backs.

The heart of the historical peninsula, Sultanahmet Square has been cleared of private vehicular traffic to minimize damage to the historical artifacts. Official and emergency vehicles will be allowed on the streets. Within the scope of this pedestrian-friendly project, tourists arriving to the square in buses will finish their journey on the trams.

“Tourists disembarking from cruises at the Galata port will commute with tram cars specially provided for them at the Karaköy station,” said Topbaş, noting that this project will be implemented in 2011.

The municipality will repave the newly pedestrianized streets with granite pavestones, an undertaking financially supported by the Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture Agency. The construction will be completed by May so as not to bother the tourists and tradesmen, said Topbaş.

“Previously, some people told me that they would take their foreign guests by different routes to prevent them from seeing the ugliness of certain parts [of the peninsula]. Now, there won’t be such a need.”

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