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ITE Transport and Logistics

Marmaray to keep spotlight Turkish urban rail sector

Istanbul is one of the world’s biggest cities – and it has the infrastructure projects to match.  Projects like Marmaray. This colossal development has been rolling along since 2004, and promises to keep Turkey’s urban rail sector in focus throughout the next year.

What is the Marmaray Project?

The Marmaray Project comprises of a rail tunnel, running below the Bosphorus Strait, and a complete expansion of the city’s suburban railway network. It’s been an ongoing concern since the idea was first floated over a decade ago.

Phase one covered the drilling of the 1.4 kilometre, 60 metre deep rail tunnel. This was capped off in 2008, although trains didn’t start passing through it until 2013. Some 13.6 km of track was built around this time too, and it’s this stretch that is operational at the time of writing.

However, unlike other underground railway projects in other cities, Marmaray is not strictly metro. While it has been connected to Istanbul’s metro stations, its primary function is for commuter trains between Istanbul’s European and Asian sides. Going forward, it will also be integrated into Turkey’s expanding high-speed rail sector.
Thanks to Marmaray’s size and scope, it’s attracted a wealth of international talent. Norwegian engineers developed project-critical fire-resistant concrete for the tunnel, for example. Keeping things in the rail realm, major internationals supplied this rolling stock, technology, and expertise.

Hyundai Rotem inked a $648 million deal back in 2008 to supply 440 vehicles to Marmaray – with final delivery taking place in 2014. Train sets are presently run in ten and five-car EMUs.
Elsewhere, Invensys Rail (now Siemens) supplied signalling equipment. According to Intelligent Signalling this was a “world first” system – CBTC with automatic operation for commuter services, with long distance passenger and freight trains running under ETCS Level 1.

While the biggest challenge, i.e. the tunnelling beneath the Bosphorus, has long been completed, there is still lots of work to be done. 

New track, new stations in Marmaray project pipeline

63 kilometres, 32 new stations, plus depots and attendant infrastructure, are mooted for construction in 2017 and beyond, keeping one of Turkey’s most ambitious rail projects in the spotlight. Surface works resumed in late January and will likely keep going until the end of the year.

Specifically, attention is now focussed on adding in third-track to the route. Additionally, reconstruction or renovation of stations along the route into Istanbul proper is underway too. These works fall under the jurisdiction of Marmaray’s project lead, Spanish firm OHL Construction.

While the commuter sector is up and running (trains run every 2 minutes carrying 120,000 passengers daily), establishing the high-speed corridor between European and Asian Istanbul has been delayed for some time. Still, OHL says Marmaray is now very much back on track and progressing well.

Partnering with a trio of domestic subcontractors, Kalyon, Kolin and Cengis, OHL is forging ahead with work at some key project sites:

Halkali-Kazlicesme line
• End of 2017 deadline
• Removal of old track has been completed on this route on the European side of Istanbul
• Three electrified lines are being built in this section and stations are being renovated to cope with high-speed trains

Ayrlik Cesmesi – Pendik line
• End of 2017 deadline
• Only removal of old track has been completed on this route so far
• Three electrified lines are being installed here
• Extension of the Sogutlucesme station is planned to open before the line, establishing a connection for Istanbul’s Metrobus service prior to accepting trains

And, according to the Railway Gazette, construction work is also underway at Ataloy and Zeytinburnu in European Istanbul. In Anatolia, Marmaray-related work is being carried out at Kartal, Bostanci, and Kiziltoprak.

Marmaray highlights ambition of Turkish rail sector

So why exactly is Marmaray so significant? After all, similar major undertakings have occurred in the rail sectors of plenty of other nations over time. National and political prestige aside, Marmaray is significant because it highlights a key characteristic of Turkey’s rail transport industry: ambition. 

Turkey’s rail sector has enjoyed an influx of funding and activity in recent years. It’s quickly emerging as a major regional buyer of rolling stock and rail technology. The nation itself is determined to become the Middle East/Eastern Europe’s prime rail hub – and projects like Marmaray are its way of meeting this aim.

With big bucks rolling into the industry, Turkey’s rail operators have some deep pockets. You can discover just how deep at Istanbul Rail Tech - a new two day exhibition dedicated to rail technology in the Turkish and Eurasian markets.

The event is a cost effective and time efficient platform to meet, negotiate and conduct business with buyers from rail networks, stations, and governments across Turkey, the Balkans, Eastern and Central Europe and Middle East regions.

Contact us today to discuss how to take part in this latest must-attend event on Turkey’s transport and logistics calendar.


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