Istanbul (AFP) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday opened the country's first driverless metro line, an eagerly awaited project expected to relieve congestion in a traffic-choked area of Istanbul.
Erdogan is already gearing up for November 2019 legislative and presidential elections and a host of new infrastructure projects are being prepared across the country.
The president, a former mayor of Istanbul, has already presided over an era of transformation for the city since his ruling party came to power in 2002, with a new bridge across the Bosphorus and two tunnels under the iconic strait.
The new metro line connects Uskudar on the Asian side of Istanbul with the residential and business area of Umraniye, also on the Asian side, bringing relief to Istanbul residents who for years have endured sometimes unimaginable traffic.
It will soon be extended by several more stations further out to the east and eventually connect with Istanbul's far-flung second airport Sabiha Gokcen.
"We are coming closer, step by step, to the goal of ridding Istanbul of vehicle traffic," Erdogan said before riding on the first journey along the line.
Lashing out at Turkey's perceived enemies, he added: "The inauguration of this metro is the best response to those who try to push our country into a corner by using the economy as a weapon."
More new metro lines are expected to be opened in the next years as Erdogan seeks to bolster his image as a politician who can realise his self-proclaimed "crazy projects".
Other projects also include a massive third airport for Istanbul due to open next year. Further ahead, a bridge across the Dardanelles Straits is planned and, even more ambitiously, a Panama-style artificial shipping canal in Istanbul.