Fast train Turkey
Thanks to high speed train services, travelling to Eskişehir or Konya from Ankara has become something like going to shop in downtown Ulus. It has proved so efficient, though so far it is available for a very restricted number of destinations, that high speed train journeys are becoming a routine for Turks (Oops, is it still allowed by His Majesty’s judges to use the word “Turk”?).
Only few years ago, it would have been a rather cruel joke to tell people that travelling from Ankara to Konya would take less than 110 minutes, or that travelling to Eskişehir would take around 85 minutes. Now, if someone says that in around six months time - precisely on Oct. 29 this year - it will become possible to travel from downtown Ankara to the heart of Istanbul in just three hours, many people would probably suspect the sanity of that person. Now, a ring of fast train services from Ankara to Eskişehir, from Eskişehir to Konya, and from Konya to Ankara, (and of course vice versa), has been completed and has become fully operational. This first high speed train ring of over 1,000 kilometers will apparently constitute the heart of the country’s future high speed train network. It will take about two hours to travel from Eskişehir to Konya.
According to the Transport Ministry’s plans, when the current and planned projects are completed within the next few years, it will become possible for the “people of Turkey” (hopefully the country’s name will remain Turkey at least) and other nationals using the network to travel from Ankara to Bursa in three hours, to Sivas in two hours 50 minutes, to İzmir in three hours, and to Afyonkarahisar in 90 minutes; from Bursa to Bilecik in 35 minutes, to Eskişehir in one hour, to Istanbul in two hours 50 minutes, to Konya in two hours 20 minutes, to Sivas in two hours 50 minutes, and from Istanbul to Sivas in five hours. The first line to be constructed after the completion of the Ankara-Istanbul line will be the Istanbul-İzmir line. Thus, the three largest cities in the country will be connected to the fast train. The project is expected to be completed within the next two years. Other high speed train targets of the Transport Ministry and the State Railways Authority include Bursa-Bandırma-Balıkesir-İzmir, Eskişehir-Antalya, Erzincan-Trabzon, Sivas-Erzincan, and the Kars line that will later be connected to Diyarbakır.
Linking city centers with high speed railways will have a revolutionary effect on the social life and thinking of the people of this country, with interaction between settlements reaching unprecedented levels. Today, Eskişehir and Konya have become like suburbs of Ankara, with more Ankarans visiting the two cities linked to the capital with high speed trains than the beautiful nearby town of Beypazarı, which can only be reached after a roughly two-hour drive. Thanks, of course to its untraditional professor Mayor Yılmaz Büyükerşen and the Eskişehir University, (which Büyükerşen served for 12 years as founding president), Eskişehir has been transformed from an ugly agrarian town to a young, living and very beautiful modern city. In that process, the fast train has made a huge contribution.
Recently, I was in Eskişehir for the inauguration of the first-ever honorary consulate there; my friend, Muharrem Özgüven, has become the honorary consul of Brazil.
Likewise, Konya achieved incredible progress since the fast train first arrived there. However, segregated buses, though in fewer numbers, still exist in the city, which is considered a conservative and Islamist capital.
Perhaps no one will remember the percentage figures that the statistics department has been releasing on Turkey’s development throughout the past decade, but this iron fast network linking cities and peoples will testify.