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New Turkey high-speed train in test crash week before opening

Turkey's much-vaunted high-speed rail link between the main cities of Ankara and Istanbul suffered a new setback just a week before its official opening when a train crashed in testing, media reports said Friday.

ISTANBUL: Turkey's much-vaunted high-speed rail link between the main cities of Ankara and Istanbul suffered a new setback just a week before its official opening when a train crashed in testing, media reports said Friday.

The link, which will cut train journey times between the two cities to three-and-a-half-hours, is the centrepiece of a drive by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government to better exploit Turkey's under-utilised rail network.

The YHT high-speed train partially derailed Thursday after colliding with a maintenance vehicle around the town of Gebze in Kocaeli province east of Istanbul, newspaper reports said.

No-one was killed or injured but the front of the train suffered damage and will require repairs, the reports said.

However the accident is a huge embarrassment for Turkey's TCDD rail monopoly and the government just a week before the planned official opening of the full Ankara-Istanbul line on July 11.

Trains are to run at up to 250 kilometres an hour along the 500-kilometre line.

The Turkish rail operator confirmed the accident and said the responsibility was with the contractor whose vehicle should not have been on the rails as the time.

It emphasised in a statement that the accident happened on a conventional speed test track and not a high-speed line.

The opening had already been put back by several months due to what officials said was the theft of overhead cables along the line.

The vast majority of Turks make long distance public journeys by bus or plane but the government wants to transform Turkey's rail network to European standards.

Much of Turkey's rail network dates back to the Ottoman Empire, when it was planned and laid out by foreign powers.

High-speed trains have already been running since 2009 between Ankara and Eskisehir, around halfway on the Ankara-Istanbul line.

Train accidents have been frequent on Turkey's ageing railway network.

In July 2004, dozens of people were killed when a newly-inaugurated high-speed train derailed in the northwest.

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