The Works

New Starts: Ankara’s Cheap Metro, Swiss Vote for More Rail

Our weekly roundup of new and newsworthy transportation projects around the world.

Dirt Cheap Metro Line Opens in Ankara

The Turkish infrastructure machine — a “constructocracy,” as one commentator called it — has become quite controversial lately, but it is nothing if not effective. Turkish transit construction costs are among the lowest on earth, as demonstrated by the M3 metro line that officially opened on Wednesday in Turkey’s capital and second-largest city. The metro cost 216 million Turkish lira, or $99 million — a minuscule sum for a line that’s 15.5 kilometers (9.6 miles) long and has 11 stations. The cost is so low that it will be dwarfed by the expense of purchasing rolling stock. China’s CSR Zhuzhou will supply 342 metro cars to Ankara for use on lines M2 and M3 for $412.5 million. The line is mostly aboveground, though does contain two (or is it four?) underground stations.

Ankara’s M2 line is scheduled to be completed later this year, and runs a similar length. Both lines are built by a consortium led by Spanish construction firm Comsa Emte in conjunction with local contractor A├žilim Insaat. Spain has some of the lowest infrastructure costs on earth, and Spanish firms have come to dominate the global public works construction industry. And while a Spanish firm is no guarantee of low costs, in this case the partnership has worked to keep costs far below the global average. (Spain’s involvement was so significant that its prime minister and minister for development showed up in Ankara for the opening ceremonies.)

Oman Signs Rail Agreements

The Sultanate of Oman this month signed three agreements related to its planned 2,244-kilometer (1,394-mile) railway network. The web of lines will be part of the greater Gulf Railway network, which will connect the six wealthy states on the Arabian peninsula (Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates). The $15.5 billion international line will eventually connect Oman to Kuwait along the northern coast of the Arabian peninsula, and would act as a bypass around the Strait of Hormuz and broader Persian Gulf, a critical oil conduit that Oman and the rest of the Gulf Cooperation Council countries fear could be disrupted by a belligerent Iran. The sultanate is expected to pick the international firms that will design, build and manage the project later this year, with work anticipated to start in early 2015.

Swiss Voters Approve Money for Rail

Last Sunday, Swiss voters went to the polls in the famously referendum-happy country. A barely-passed vote to limit immigration made the biggest headlines, but voters also overwhelmingly approved a longterm rail finance measure. With support from 62 percent of voters, Switzerland will increase annual rail spending to around 1 billion Swiss francs ($1.1 billion) per year, a hike of about 20 percent. With 42 billion francs slated to be spent over the next 40 years, the plan replaces more ad-hoc spending initiatives, with the executive branch of the Swiss federal government presenting plans to the federal parliament every four to eight years for approval. The first package has already been approved with the overall framework, and will incrementally improve the national network with new half-hourly service between a number of city pairs, a reduction in travel time between Bern and Lausanne, and an expansion of the suburban commuter S-Bahn system in Bern, Basel and Geneva, among other upgrades.

The Works is made possible with the support of the Surdna Foundation.

Stephen J. Smith is a reporter based in New York. He has written about transportation, infrastructure and real estate for a variety of publications including New York Yimby, where he is currently an editor, Next City, City Lab and the New York Observer.

Tags: infrastructuretransportationthe worksnew startsrail travelinfrastructure spendingreferendummetrosconstructocracy