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Infrastructure: Transportation and Telecommunications in Turkey


Transportation Overview

The development of efficient domestic transportation systems in Turkey has been slowed by long distances, difficult terrain, and low investment. Major investment projects are expected to improve the national road and railroad systems by 2010.

Roads in Turkey

Roads are Turkey’s most important domestic transportation system, although only 130,000 kilometers of paved roads were in service in 2004, and little expansion has occurred since the 1950s. More than 250,000 kilometers of existing roads are unpaved. The state and provincial system includes about 65,000 kilometers of roads, of which 1,900 kilometers are classified as highways. Main highways radiate from Ankara in central Anatolia; Istanbul and İzmir in the west; Adana in the south; and Erzurum and Diyarbakır in the east. The most important recent addition to the system is the Ankara-Istanbul toll road. Because the number of motor vehicles increased by more than 5 million between 1983 and 2004, Turkey’s city streets are very congested. In 2004 several major road and bridge projects were under discussion to link Anatolia more effectively with Europe.

Railroads in Turkey

In 2004 Turkey had only 8,671 kilometers of railroad, all standard gauge and mostly in service for more than 60 years. Most major population centers are connected by rail. From a ring around the Anatolian Plateau, rail lines radiate to Zonguldak and Samsun on the Black Sea; Istanbul, İzmir, and Bandırma in the west; and via Adana to Syria and Iraq in the south. Three lines go into eastern Anatolia. The state-owned system is slow and unprofitable. In 2004 only 4 percent of freight transport and 2 percent of passenger transport were by rail. Between 1990 and 2003, passenger trips decreased by 50 percent. Planned improvements include limited privatization, upgrading of the Istanbul-Ankara trunk line to include high-speed trains, and improved rail links between Anatolia and Thrace. The Marmaray project, scheduled for completion in 2008, aims to improve rail transportation through Istanbul. It will include a railroad tunnel under the Bosporus. Plans call for some private railroad operations to supplement the state system in the future. Ankara, Istanbul, and İzmir have metro systems; lines in Ankara and İzmir were expanding in the early 2000s.

Ports of Turkey

Turkey’s ports have suffered from overcrowding and inefficiency. The main facilities are located at Antalya, İskenderun, and Mersin on the Mediterranean; Gemlik, Istanbul, and İzmit in the Marmara region; İzmir on the Aegean Sea; and Hopa, Samsun, and Trabzon on the Black Sea. The ports of Istanbul, İzmir, İzmit, and Mersin are particularly vital because they are outlets for large industrial regions. The state railroad manages all the largest ports, but six of them were on the government’s privatization list in 2005. In the early 2000s, Turkey’s 11-million-ton merchant marine has carried a decreasing share of the total freight passing through its ports; in 2004 less than 30 percent of port traffic was under the Turkish flag. Passenger ships in Istanbul are important commuter carriers.

Inland Waterways of Turkey

Turkey has about 1,200 kilometers of inland waterways, none of which offers a vital line of transportation. Not included in that amount is the channel formed by the Dardanelles, the Sea of Marmara, and the Bosporus, linking the Black Sea with the Mediterranean Sea and forming one of the most important water connections in the world. In the early 2000s, safety and environmental factors have made expansion of traffic through this heavily traveled route problematic.

Civil Aviation and Airports in Turkey

Of Turkey’s 87 mainly state-owned airports with paved runways, 16 have runways longer than 3,000 meters. Some 14 heliports were in operation in 2004. The three largest airports are located at Istanbul, Ankara, and İzmir. Istanbul-Atatürk, the largest airport, was expanded in 2000, as was the primary tourist airport at Ankara. The state-owned national airline, Turk Hava Yollari (THY, Turkish Airlines), is a state-controlled enterprise that flies from Ankara and Istanbul to 79 international destinations, including major cities in Europe and the United States. In 2004 THY, which is scheduled for privatization, flew 11.4 million passengers. Private airline activity increased in the early 2000s, carrying about 2 million passengers in 2004.

Turkish Pipelines

In 2004 Turkey had 3,177 kilometers of natural gas pipelines and 3,562 kilometers of oil pipelines. In the early 2000s, controversial pipeline issues were Turkey’s role in new routes bringing oil and natural gas from the flourishing Caspian Sea region into Europe and the configuration of a new pipeline that would connect Russia with the Mediterranean and bypass the Bosporus. The potentially lucrative Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) line, 1,000 kilometers of which passes through Turkey, began bringing oil from the Caspian in 2005. That line is advantageous because it bypasses both Russia and the crowded Bosporus corridor. Because the BTC line is considered insufficient for future volume, Turkey is involved in international discussions of several other pipeline routes that would bypass the Bosporus.



Telecommunications in Turkey

In the 1980s and 1990s, Turkey’s telecommunications systems underwent substantial modernization, including nearly complete digitization and advanced intercity trunk lines. In 2004 some 19 million main telephone lines were in use. A satellite system links users in remote areas. The use of cellular telephones has increased rapidly since the late 1990s, reaching more than 50 percent of the population in 2004. In the early 2000s, three private mobile services, the largest with more than 20 million subscribers, were operating. However, in the early 2000s demand has exceeded the supply of Internet and data services. In 2005 an estimated 10.2 million people were using the Internet. Initial steps for the privatization of Turk Telekom, the state-owned telecommunications monopoly, were taken in 2005.

For an in-depth analysis of The State and Evolution of Fixed or Mobile Radio Communications in Turkey see:









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