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Massive expansion of urban rail systems in Turkey ahead of local elections

Gayrettrpe - Airport line M11 | © UAB Press

In the run-up to the local elections being held on 31 March 2024, the Turkish Transport Minister Uraloğlu (AKP) is rushing from event to event to open new lines and extensions, competing with local authorities like Istanbul’s mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu (CHP) and other mayors not members of Turkey’s ruling party. Most inauguration events have been taking place in Istanbul, a mega-city which has massively expanded its urban rail network in the last 25 years.

In the year 2000, Istanbul had two old-fashioned suburban lines on either side of the Bosporus, an 18 km light metro (now M1) and the initial segment (7.4 km) of what is now line M2. The only modern tram line then had a length of 10.5 km. This has now increased to 237.5 km of proper metro lines, 95% underground, with 74.3 km lying on the Asian side of the city.

The tram network has also grown, though less rapidly, to 42.5 km (including the catenary-free T5 which opened in 2023 along the Golden Horn). The overall urban rail offer is complemented with the 76.6 km Marmaray, an upgraded suburban railway linking the two halves of the city with the rail tunnel beneath the Bosporus which has been in service since 2013. Once planned to become line T6, the so-called U3 was launched on 26 Feb 2024 on the historic approach line along the seashore from Kazliçesmeto Sirkeci railway station, using repainted suburban trains on what is now a partly single-track line.

U3 Sirkeci | © Aybars Ceylan
Opening of the extension of M5 | @metroistanbul X
Extension of M9 | @metroistanbul X
Gayrettepe Interchange – Airport line M11 | © UAB Press
Gayrettepe – Airport line M11 | © UAB Press
M11 | @metroistanbul X

Among the most recent metro extensions are the completion of lines M3 and M9 in the west of the city, and an extension of the driverless M5 on the Asian side. The airport express line, operated by national rail company TCDD and opened in 2023, was extended on the city side to Gayrettepe and from the airport to Arnavutköy, from where it will soon be extended to Halkali, the major rail hub in the west of Istanbul, thus forming a U-shaped line. While on the European side, the driverless M7 and line M1 are being extended westwards too, the new line M12 is already in testing phase on the Asian side where also lines M10 and M14 are under construction and M13 is about to start construction. Though not part of Istanbul, a driverless metro is also being built in Gebze, the southern terminus of the Marmaray suburban rail service.

Metro Gezbe at Darica beach | © Metro Gezbe

Outside Istanbul, Izmir’s rail system saw the addition of a 10 km tram loop in the northwestern parts of the city plus an 8 km western extension to its only metro line, while a second line is under construction.

Izmit has just opened a 3 km branch on its tram network to serve the new city hospital, and the construction of a new, 26 km long full-size metro line is part of the election campaign promises. In Bursa, a short northern extension of the metro network has just been announced to open a few days before the elections.

Light Metro Izmir | @ksksizmir X
One of the ten nw low-floor trams from Turkish manufacturer Bozankaya for Izmit | © Bozankaya

Inaugurations in Turkey in 2024:


19 March 2024 Metro M11 Kargo Terminali – Arnavutköy (8.5 km)

18 March 2024 Metro M9 Bahariye – Ataköy (12 km)

16 March 2024 Metro M5 Çekmeköy – Samandira Merkez (6.5 km)

10 March 2024 Metro M3 Kirazli – Bakirköy Sahil (8.4 km)

29 January 2024 Metro M11 Kagithane – Gayrettepe (3.5 km)

Istanbul network map: https://www.urbanrail.net/as/tr/istanbul/istanbul.htm


4 March 2024 Metro Sehitlik – Kaymakamlik (0.7 km)

24 February 2024 Metro Fahrettin Altay – Sehitlik (6.3 km)

27 January 2024 Tramway Çevre Yolu – Katip Çelebi Üniversitesi (9.9 km)

Izmir network map: https://www.urbanrail.net/as/tr/izmir/izmir.htm


17 March 2024 Tramway Mehmet Ali Pasa – Sehir Hastanesi (3 km)

Izmit map: https://www.urbanrail.net/as/tr/izmit/izmit.htm

Alstom Metropolis train lines M3 & M9 | © Craig Moore
M5 Üsküdar | © Craig Moore
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