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Erdogan inaugurates first high-speed rail between Ankara and Istanbul

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has inaugurated the first high-speed train link between his country's two major cities, Ankara and Istanbul. It was a prestige project marred by a number of glitches.

The Turkish head of state and other dignitaries hailed the rail link as a milestone toward bringing the country's infrastructure up to European standards.

"We crossed mountains and passed rivers," Erdogan told reporters during the inauguration ceremony. "Despite all the attempts of sabotage, blockade, and slowdown, we completed the line and opened it for service."

The line, which will be open to the general public starting Saturday, has repeatedly been delayed and beset by accidents. Even the maiden journey on Friday was not without problems.

According to the news agency Agence France-Presse, the train suffered an unscheduled halt due to a technical problem with overhead cables outside the city of Izmit.

No ideal route

Erdogan made sure the rail project was finished ahead of presidential elections on August 10, after making infrastructure improvements a top priority on the campaign trail.

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But some Turks have still complained about the line's terminus on the Asian side of the Bosphorus - rather than in the center of Istanbul - meaning it can take up to two hours to access the heart of the city.

The government, for its part, is hoping that trains will eventually run through tunnels underneath the water so that travelers can get to the city center right away.

hg/cjc (AP, AFP)

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