WITH a fanfare of music and fireworks, the Mayor of Izmir Ahmet Piristina formally opened the first stage of the city's light metro network on May 22.

Other participants in the celebrations included Trade & Industry Minister Kenan Tanrikulu, Finance Minister Sumer Oral, former Mayor Burhan Ozfatura, and Izmir Metro AS General Manager Ibrahim Koc. The mayor offered citizens a week of free travel to appreciate the benefits of the new mode, and in the next 5h around 75000 passengers took up that invitation.

The 11·6 km initial line, built over the past five years by ABB, Adtranz and Yapi Merkezi, links Üçyol in the city centre with the northeastern suburb of Bornova. The first stage is underground, and the rest on viaduct. There are 10 stations, and 45 articulated LRVs which run in three-car trains powered by a 750V DC third rail. Total cost of the project is put at US$600m.

The municipality has introduced feeder bus services to all metro stations, and introduced a smart card ticketing system that will be fully integrated with other bus and ferry operations in the city.

A consortium of STFA Muhendislik and Semaly began work last month on the design and engineering work for the second stage of the metro, running underground for 5·2 km from Üçyol to Fahrettin Altay. Design is due to be completed by the end of this year, and tenders for construction are expected to follow.