The European Investment Bank is continuing to offer strong support to transport infrastructure projects in Turkey by extending a EUR 850 million loan to the country's State Railways (TCDD). The sovereign loan will enable TCDD to build the country's first high speed railway along the Istanbul-Ankara corridor, connecting the two most populous cities of the country.

The loan is a key element of the State Railways' long-range plans to significantly improve connections between the Capital and key areas of economic activity in the country in an efficient and commercially oriented way and responding to rising demand for railway services. The company operates a country-wide network of some 11.000 km of which major parts are in need of rehabilitation and upgrading. In addition to the railways, TCDD manages locomotive, wagon and coach manufacturers and repair workshops as well as the seven largest ports of the country.

Süleyman Karaman, Director General of TCDD, said this loan will help to modernise one of the most used lines benefiting millions of both domestic travellers and tourists. The average age of the existing rail track is making refurbishment and new investments imperative.

Transport infrastructure is of paramount importance for a well performing economy, Matthias Kollatz-Ahnen, EIB Vice-President responsible for Turkey said. The EIB has a strong track record in this sector and we want to build on that, he added.

This flagship project - whose total cost is EUR 2.6 billion - is implemented in parallel to assistance of the European Commission to TCDD in the context of the Turkish Rail Sector Re-Structuring and Strengthening Project, which aims at establishing the legislative and institutional framework of the Turkish rail sector in accordance with the EU rules and regulations.

In addition, this Turkish high-speed railway line project is strongly supportive of key strategic objectives of EU policy and is a continuation of the Pan-European Corridor IV. Since 2004, the EIB has committed close to EUR 3.5 bn to Turkey. A major investment being the Marmary project, which foresees a rail tunnel beneath the strait for the first time, supported by the EIB in 2005 with loans totaling EUR 1.05 billion.

This brings the EIB's total number of projects in Turkey to 119, with a total Bank commitment of EUR 7.5 bn in all key economic sectors of the country.

The Bank is currently developing new projects in various priority areas in the public sector as well as in private business. The EIB has also a successful history of cooperation with a network of some 19 commercial banks for the funding of SMEs and small infrastructure projects.