Substantial increases in government support are allowing Turkish State Railways to expand its network, with work underway on new lines for 250 km/h operation

THIS YEAR marks the 150th anniversary of railways in Turkey, so it is most appropriate that government policy is prioritising rail investment once again. Development of the network is now a state policy, after almost 60 years of neglect.

In 2003 the government announced that investment in railways and airports would be stepped up, and appropriations for TCDD and state airport authority DHL were increased. Funding allocated for rail in 2005 and 2006 put TCDD in first place for government investment in state-owned companies; in 2006 TCDD will receive 830·3m lira, a five-fold increase since 2002.

In order to provide services which meet modern customer demands, TCDD has established internal institutional targets, to focus on investment, financial structures, processes, our customers, our employees and the community. Our most important objectives are to introduce high speed trains, reconstruct life-expired infrastructure, and open up the network to enable the private sector to operate rail services in line with the policy adopted in the European Union.

Faster trains

Within the next decade new or rebuilt lines for fast trains will be opened along the most important corridors, requiring an estimated US$10bn. As well as raising speeds, the new lines will change a historical imbalance resulting from the past emphasis on developing railways in the west of the country.

Foreign concessionaires were responsible for early rail developments in the Ottoman empire, with a British company opening the 130 km first line between Izmir and Aydin on September 23 1856. During the pre-republic period after World War I, 70% of railway construction was to the west of Ankara and Konya. Under the subsequent republic the foreign-owned lines were nationalised, and 3300route-km was built in 1924-40, of which 79% was in the east. By 1950 the network had reached 7671 km, but then development stagnated for many decades.

Modernisation is now underway. We are aiming to cut the journey time on the principal Ankara - Istanbul route from the current 6h 30min to 3h, comparable with the overall journey time for air passengers. We estimate that this will give rail 78% of the passenger market between the two cities, up from the current 10%. At the same time, journeys between Ankara, Balikesir and Izmir will also be cut by up to 2h.

Work on an electrified double-track fast line began in 2003, and it is anticipated that the consortium of OHL and Alsim-Alarko will complete the first stage of the project this year, covering the 206 km from Eskent to Eskisehir. The second stage is divided into K?€?sek?€?y - Vezirhan and Vezirhan - In?€?nü sections, and will be completed in 2008.

At present rail journeys between Ankara and Konya require a circuitous 696 km trip via Eskisehir and Afyon, taking more than 10h, which makes rail uncompetitive with road. In January 2005 work began on a 212 km direct line from Ankara to Polatli, Kocahacili and Konya, which will slash journey times to 1h15min when it is completed in 2007.

The 602 km journey from Ankara to Sivas currently takes 12 hours. The new Balisih - Yozgat - Yildizeli - Sivas line will shorten the distance by 131 km and permit a top speed of 250 km/h. As a result, the trip from Istanbul to Sivas will be cut from more than 21h to just 5h.

The Bursa - Ayazma - Osmaneli Fast Train Project will see the construction of a 105·5 km long double-track railway, also suitable for 250 km/h, which will reduce the journey time between Ankara and Bursa to 2h.

Under the Bosporus

The Bosporus tube tunnel crossing is the centrepiece of the Marmaray metro project. Expected to open in April 2009, this will link Halkali with Gebze in Anatolia, and finally connect the railways of Asia and Europe.

Around 63 km of the 76·3 km route will run at grade, with the rest in tunnel, including a 1·4 km immersed tube beneath the Bosporus. Three underground stations will be built and 37 existing ones upgraded, and emphasis is being put on protecting the environment and the city's historical fabric.

The high-capacity suburban service will be fast, frequent and modern. It will also be closely integrated with other urban transport in the Istanbul region. The suburban service is projected to carry 75000 passengers per hour per direction, and long distance and express trains will also be accommodated on the route. Freight trains will use the tunnel between 00.30 and 04.30, but dangerous cargoes will continue to travel by ferry.

Rolling stock

Last October a €180m agreement was signed with CAF for supply of 10 high speed EMUs with distributed traction. Based on Renfe's Class 120, the trains will enter service from the end of 2007, running on the Ankara - Istanbul fast line at speeds of up to 250 km/h. They will also be used on the Ankara - Konya route. The units will be formed of six aluminium-bodied coaches providing first and second class air-conditioned accommodation for a total of 419 passengers, including customers with reduced mobility, and a cafeteria car.

A loan from the European Investment Bank is funding the purchase of 12 two-car DMUs from Korean supplier Rotem. These will enter traffic in late 2008 on services from Izmir to Usak, Denizli, Aydin and Bandirma.

On March 12 EIB announced a €400m loan to finance a total of 440 commuter cars for the Marmaray project, to be formed as 10-car and five-car EMUs.

TCDD will shortly sign a contract for the procurement of 32 three-car electric commuter trainsets. We also anticipate placing an order later this year for 80 electric locomotives.

Maintenance and renewal

Studies are currently looking at the best ways to renew and maintain the existing rail network. These are focusing on standardisation of equipment, doubling of single-track lines, upgrading signalling and telecommunications, carrying international piggyback traffic and developing intermodal transport. Internal processes are being computerised to improve efficiency.

We aim to increase co-operation with third parties, and last year a law was enacted which makes it possible for trains owned by private companies to run on the TCDD network.

Government investment in railways and airports, new lira

2003 4·7m

2004 9·2m

2005 1247·0m

2006 (TCDD only) 830·3m

TABLE: TCDD in brief

Network length, track-km 10984

Main line, track-km 8697

Sidings and loops, track-km 2 287

Electrified, track-km 2 305

Number of locos diesel/electric 457/73

Freight wagons 16 004

Passenger coaches 993

  • CAPTION: A train from Adapazari approaches Dernice on the Ankara - Istanbul line, which is being upgraded for higher speeds
    Photo: Philip Wormald
  • CAPTION: New line construction will bring substantial reductions in travel times
  • CAPTION: The Marmaray immersed tube tunnel will allow long-distance trains which currently terminate at Haydarpasa station on the Asian side of the Bosporus to run through to Europe Photo: Philip Wormald