halkalı tunel1

TURKEY: Work has started on construction of an 8·4 km alignment between Halkalı on the western edge of the Istanbul conurbation and Ispartakule as part of the rebuilding of TCDD’s main line between Istanbul and the Bulgarian border at Kapıkule.

This is the third and final phase of the reconstruction of the corridor which forms the principal rail link between Turkey and western Europe.

Speaking at a start of work ceremony on July 11, newly appointed Minister of Transport & Infrastructure Abdulkadir Uraloğlu said the route modernisation programme is ‘the first part of the Asia-Europe Railway Corridor. This railway line will further strengthen the relations between Turkey and the European Union.’ He added that the realigned railway would be able to handle four times more traffic than the existing route.

tr-Sofia-Istanbul sleeper at Halkali-NK

The only passenger train currently running between Bulgaria and Turkey is the overnight train from București via Sofia, which terminates at Halkalı on the eastern edge of Istanbul.

The new alignment is being built by a consortium of local construction companies Gülermak Ağır Sanayı, Yapı & Yapı Inşaat and Taşyapı Inşaat, which submitted the lowest bid of TL6bn in a tendering process held in May 2022.

The civil works include 6·2 km of bored tunnel, 860 m of cut and cover and 1·4 km at grade. The contract covers the supply and installation of rails, signalling and related railway systems, with work due to be completed by April 23 2025.

The tunnel and its approaches will provider a straighter alignment than the existing line, passing directly under the northern end of the Küçükçekmece lake instead of following a circuitous and low-speed route around the shore. The tunnel will pass under the proposed route of the Kanal Istanbul ship canal, which would bypass the Bosporus straits.

Rebuild in three phases

Reconstruction of the Halkalı - Kapıkule main line is being conducted in three phases, of which the first is the 153 km from the Bulgarian border to Çerkezköy. Two sections of new alignment are being built: an 86 km route between Edirne and Lüleburgaz via Babaeski, and approximately 55 km between Lüleburgaz and Çerkezköy via Büyükkarıştıran, where a new station is to be built outside the town.

tr-Halkali-Kapikule corridor

The lead contractor is a consortium of Kolin and Webuild, the budget is €530m and work is due for completion by the end of 2024.

Work on the 67 km from Çerkezköy to Ispartakule is being led by Gülermak and YSE Yapi within a budget of €400m under a contract let in April 2022. Principal works include laying two more tracks mostly within the existing formation, as well as building grade-separated junctions to connect with new alignment at Çerkezköy.

The cost of the route modernisation programme is being supported through a €275m pre-accession assistance grant from the European Union given on condition that Ankara starts work on a planned rail bypass of Istanbul by 2029. The European Bank for Reconstruction & Development is also providing a €150m loan, with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank contributing a further €150m in credits.