WEEKLY freight services between Germany and Turkey will be running by the end of the year following a successful trial run from Istanbul to Köln that covered the 3000 km in just 79h. According to freight operator Railion Deutschland, the objective is to launch a daily service within two years.

Hauled throughout by a Class 189 four-system electric loco from the Siemens Dispolok pool, the Asia-Europe-Express carrying car parts, furniture and consumer goods was flagged away from Istanbul Halkali by DBAG Chairman Hartmut Mehdorn and Turkish State Railways Director General Süleman Karaman on May 9.

The train was routed through Bulgaria, where an 86 km unelectrified section dictated the use of a diesel loco, also from Dispolok. The train continued via Bucuresti, Craiova, Arad, Budapest, Györ, Wien and Passau to Mannheim, where it was met by Railion officials. Special dispensation was granted by the authorities in Turkey, Bulgaria and Hungary for the train to run with German locos and crews, but a pilot loco was required in Romania.

The train had been expected to take 100h, which is considered fast enough to attract traffic from lorries that typically require five to six days. A major objective of the trial was to prove that border delays can be cut. Railion and its partners are hoping that EU funding will be available to fund infrastructure improvements in the Balkans which would permit even shorter transit times in the future.