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Does Istanbul have metro? Is the subway network widespread in Istanbul?

Is there a subway in Istanbul? Is it possible to get around using the subway network in Istanbul? Can I visit historical sites using the subway or rail system?

Does Istanbul have metro?
Istanbul Metro Map

The Istanbul Metro, serves as a rapid transit railway network in Istanbul, Turkey. While the M11 line is operated by TCDD, the rest of the system is managed by Metro Istanbul, a public enterprise under the control of the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality. Back in 1989, the first segment, the M1 line, was inaugurated. As of April 2023, there are currently 137 operational stations, and an additional 56 stations are in the construction phase.

This comprehensive system comprises eleven distinct lines: M1A, M1B, M2, M3, M6, M7, M9, and M11 lines are situated on the European side of the Bosporus Strait, while M4, M5, and M8 lines are on the Asian side. Given Istanbul’s distinctive topography and the significant depth of the Bosporus, which bisects the city, the European and Asian metro segments don’t have a direct connection.

To bridge this gap, the Marmaray commuter rail line integrates with the metro at various points. Notably, three metro lines are presently under development on the Asian side: M10 (Pendik Merkez–Fevzi Çakmak), M12 (60. Yıl Parkı–Kazım Karabekir), and M14 (Altunizade–Kazım Karabekir). Furthermore, extension projects are underway for the M3, M7, M9, and M11 lines on the European side, as well as the M4 and M5 lines on the Asian side.

Apart from the Marmaray commuter rail, the metro system also interfaces with the F1, Tünel (F2), F3, and F4 funicular lines, in addition to the Istanbul Tram network and cable cars.

Working hours of metro lines

Translate to American English:

The subway operates from 6:00 AM to 12:00 AM with a frequency of every 6 to 12 minutes, except for the M8 line, which currently operates from 6:00 AM to 11:00 PM. During peak hours, the intervals can be reduced to 3 to 4 minutes.

The subway has a flat fare of 9.90 (Turkish Lira) when used with the Istanbulkart, the city’s universal contactless payment card. Discounts or free cards are available for students, seniors, and veterans.

Do subway lines work at night?

On August 30, 2019, as a commemoration of Turkey’s Victory Day, Ekrem İmamoğlu, the Mayor of Istanbul, announced that several lines in Istanbul would offer 24-hour service during weekends, with trains operating at intervals of 20 minutes. This initiative commenced in August 2019, enabling the Istanbul Metro to run around the clock on weekends and public holidays. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, this service was suspended in March 2020.

On March 5, 2022, Metro Istanbul declared the resumption of the night metro service on the following lines: M1A Yenikapı-Atatürk Airport, M1B Yenikapı-Kirazli, M2 Yenikapı-Hacıosman, M4 Kadıköy-Sabiha Gökçen Airport, M5 Üsküdar-Çekmeköy, and M6 Levent-Boğaziçi University/Hisarüstü. Subsequently, on July 14, 2022, the M7 Mecidiyeköy-Mahmutbey line was also included in the night metro service schedule.

The historical timeline of Istanbul’s metro lines

The Tünel, which commenced operations on January 17, 1875, holds the distinction of being Istanbul’s oldest underground urban rail line. It ranks as the world’s second-oldest such line, following London’s Underground, established in 1863. Moreover, it stands as the pioneer of underground urban rail systems on continental Europe.

Back on January 10, 1912, the initial blueprint for a comprehensive metro network in Istanbul was unveiled. The plan, titled “Avant Projet d’un Métropolitain à Constantinople,” was crafted by French engineer L. Guerby. It outlined a network comprising 24 stations spanning from Topkapı to Şişli districts, with a link across the Golden Horn. Each station was designed with a 75-meter platform adjacent to the rail line. The inter-station distances ranged from 220 to 975 meters. Despite its ingenuity, this project remained unrealized, with the original schematics currently showcased at the Istanbul Technical University Museum.

In 1936, French urban planner Henri Prost proposed a metro network connecting Taksim and Beyazıt districts, situated on the north and south sides of the Golden Horn respectively. In the subsequent years, other proposals emerged from Dutch firm Nedeco and Paris Transportation Department Director Marc Langevin. Regrettably, none of these concepts materialized, leading to a pause in such efforts until 1987, when planning for the present-day Istanbul Metro commenced.

Construction of the modern mass transit railway system began in 1989, with the first stations operational by September. Metro Istanbul (formerly İstanbul Ulaşım A.Ş.) was established the prior year to oversee system operations. The M1 line, initially named “Hafif Metro” (translating to “light metro”), was an early outcome. Despite being a fully separated line, the M1 operated with smaller trainsets and shorter platforms, earning it the “light metro” classification. This line later expanded westward from Aksaray, ultimately reaching Atatürk Airport in the southwest by 2002.

The construction of the M2 line commenced on September 11, 1992. However, the process encountered obstacles due to the unearthing of numerous archaeological sites during drilling. This led to slowdowns or halts in station construction, particularly in the southern part. Bearing in mind Istanbul’s seismic activity, the entire network was constructed using the cut-and-cover method to withstand earthquakes measuring up to 9.0 on the Richter scale.

The initial stretch connecting Taksim and 4. Levent commenced its service on September 16, 2000, although it faced some delays. Spanning 8.5 km (5.3 mi), this line boasts 6 stations, each exhibiting distinct colors while sharing a similar design. By 2000, there were 8 Alstom-manufactured 4-car train sets operational, with an average frequency of 5-minute intervals, serving around 130,000 daily passengers. As of January 30, 2009, Eurotem-built train sets joined the service, with a total of 34 train sets consisting of 4 cars each employed on the M2 line. Eurotem is slated to produce a total of 92 new train sets for this line.

A northward expansion from 4. Levent to Maslak was inaugurated on January 30, 2009, followed by the temporary terminus at Darüşşafaka on September 2, 2010. Notably, the southern extension of the M2 line, spanning from Taksim to Yenikapı and crossing the Golden Horn via the Haliç station on a bridge and through the historical peninsula underground, was operational by February 15, 2014. This 5.2 km (3.2 mi) extension incorporates four stations, with a total project cost of $593 million. At Yenikapı, the line intersects with the extended M1 line and the Marmaray commuter line, facilitating connection between the Asian and European sections of the city.

The journey between Şişhane station in Beyoğlu and Haciosman station in Maslak encompasses a 20 km (12.4 mi) distance, taking approximately 27 minutes. This includes travel time from Şişhane to Taksim (1.65 km, 2 minutes), Taksim to 4. Levent (8.5 km, 12 minutes), and 4. Levent to Haciosman (8.1 km, 12 minutes). The entire length of the European side of the M2 line will extend to 23 km (14.3 mi) upon completion of all 16 stations between Hacıosman and Yenikapı, not counting the Golden Horn Metro Bridge (93 meters), the Taksim-Kabataş tunnel connection to the Seabus port (0.6 km), and the Yenikapı-Aksaray tunnel linking the M1 line to the Yenikapı Transfer Center (0.6 km).

Regarding the Asian side, the ongoing construction involves the remaining portion of the 26.5 km (16.5 mi) long M4 line from Kadıköy to Kaynarca, incorporating a total of 19 stations. Constructed by the Astaldi / Makyol / Gülermak consortium at a cost of €751 million, the first segment opened on August 17, 2012, terminating at Kartal. Additionally, work commenced in March 2012 on the 20 km (12.4 mi) long M5 line, set to run from Üsküdar via Ümraniye to Sancaktepe.

List of metro lines in Istanbul

The metro lines in Istanbul create a vast and integrated transportation network, facilitating urban mobility. These lines connect different regions, offering an efficient public transportation system. Firstly, the M1 line stretches from Yenikapı to Atatürk Airport, with the M1B branch extending to Kirazlı. The M2 line runs from Yenikapı to Hacıosman, while the M3 line extends from Kirazlı to Kayaşehir Merkez, with an extension planned to Bakırköy. Similarly, the M4 line travels from Kadıköy to Sabiha Gökçen Airport, with an ongoing extension towards Tuzla.

The M5 line connects Üsküdar to Çekmeköy, with an extension to Sultanbeyli in progress. The M6 line provides swift connectivity from Levent to Boğaziçi Üniversitesi/Hisarüstü, catering especially to short distances. The M7 line stretches from Yıldız to Mahmutbey, while the M8 line serves between Bostancı and Parseller. Additionally, the M9 line spans from Olimpiyat to Bahariye, with plans to extend further to Ataköy. The M10 line operates between Kağıthane and Kargo Terminali, with aspirations for future expansions.

The interconnection of these lines plays a crucial role in facilitating convenient and effective transportation for both residents and visitors in Istanbul. The integrated system allows passengers to seamlessly transition between different lines, enabling quick access to various parts of the city. Spanning both the European and Asian sides, these lines are meticulously designed to adapt to Istanbul’s unique geography. This diversity aims to provide a rapid, secure, and comfortable transportation experience, catering to the needs of Istanbul’s residents and visitors alike.

M1 Line: Yenikapı ↔ Atatürk Airport / Kirazlı

  • Side: European
  • Opened: 1989
  • Length: 26.8 km
  • Stations: 31
  • Notes: Branches diverge at Otogar. M1A branch runs to Atatürk Airport. M1B branch runs to Kirazlı, with a pending extension to Halkalı. Operates from 06:00 AM to 00:00 AM. Trains are currently four cars, with plans for 5-car trains in the future.

M2 Line: Yenikapı ↔ Hacıosman

  • Side: European
  • Opened: 2000
  • Length: 23.49 km
  • Stations: 16
  • Notes: Branch line between Sanayi Mahallesi and Seyrantepe. Operates from 06:00 AM to 00:00 AM. Maximum 8-car trains during peak hours, 4-car trains during off-peak hours.

M3 Line: Kirazlı ↔ Kayaşehir Merkez

  • Side: European
  • Opened: 2013
  • Length: 18 km
  • Stations: 13
  • Notes: Southern extension to Bakırköy (9.0 km with 7 stations) under construction. Operates from 06:00 AM to 00:00 AM. Physical maximum 8-car trains, currently using 4-car trains due to ridership.

M4 Line: Kadıköy ↔ Sabiha Gökçen Airport

  • Side: Asian
  • Opened: 2012
  • Length: 33.5 km
  • Stations: 23
  • Notes: Extension to Tuzla with 6 more stations under construction. Operates from 06:00 AM to 00:00 AM. Maximum 8-car trains, 4-car trains during off-peak hours.

M5 Line: Üsküdar ↔ Çekmeköy

  • Side: Asian
  • Opened: 2017
  • Length: 20 km
  • Stations: 16
  • Notes: Extension to Sultanbeyli (10.9 km with 8 stations) under construction. Operates from 06:00 AM to 00:00 AM. Maximum 6-car fully automated trains.

M6 Line: Levent ↔ Boğaziçi Üniversitesi/Hisarüstü

  • Side: European
  • Opened: 2015
  • Length: 3.3 km
  • Stations: 4
  • Notes: Known as the “Mini-Metro,” M6 is a light metro line. Single track between stations, maximum 4-car trains.

M7 Line: Yıldız ↔ Mahmutbey

  • Side: European
  • Opened: 2020
  • Length: 20 km
  • Stations: 17
  • Notes: Partially opened on October 28, 2020. Yıldız-Kabataş section still under construction. Physical maximum 8-car trains, currently using 4-car trains, fully automated.

M8 Line: Bostancı ↔ Parseller

  • Side: Asian
  • Opened: 2023
  • Length: 14.27 km
  • Stations: 13
  • Notes: Opened on January 6, 2023. Medium capacity system, maximum 4-car fully automated trains.

M9 Line: Olimpiyat ↔ Bahariye

  • Side: European
  • Opened: 2021
  • Length: 5.9 km
  • Stations: 5
  • Notes: Partially opened to Bahariye on May 29, 2021. Took over the M3 Olimpiyat-Ikitelli branch. Bahariye-Ataköy section planned to open in 2024. Physical maximum 4-car trains.

M10 Line: Kağıthane ↔ Kargo Terminali

  • Side: European
  • Opened: 2023
  • Length: 34 km
  • Stations: 7
  • Notes: Extensions to Gayrettepe in the east and Halkalı railway station in the west are under construction. Higher maximum speed (120 km) than other lines, uses metro trains similar to Chinese metro type B trains in 4-car configuration.

Aykut Ozcan serves as a travel consultant at heyturkey.com. With a passion for travel, he is an experienced travel advisor with extensive destination knowledge, expertly turning every traveler's dreams into reality.

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