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ITE Transport and Logistics

Turkish high speed rail construction update

The Turkish government is currently working hard to deliver an ambitious modern railway network interconnecting the entire country by 2023, to coincide with the centenary celebration of the Republic of Turkey. Modernising existing railway network, expanding the high-speed train network, as well as building 11,000 kilometres of new railway are all in Turkey’s 2023 vision. 

Turkey’s huge railway ambitions

The programme will triple the level of electrified track in Turkey and as much as 70% of the lines will have modern signalling systems. This serves multiple purposes: doubling capacity, reducing emissions, improving journey times while also improving comfort for passengers. 

Turkey’s proposed network lines span Halkali to Sivas, with branches connecting to Haydarpasa, Bandirma, Izmir, and Karaman. The network is also planned to extend all the way to Kars, which will then be connected with Baku in Azerbaijan and Tbilisi in Georgia. 

According to Turkish State Railways (TCDD) Assistant General Director Ismail Murtazaoglu, TCDD aims to operate 300 services by day and carry 120,000 passengers on their high-speed network. TCDD also have plans to purchase 106 high speed trains by 2023, so passenger numbers can be increased from 180 million a year to 945 million, and cargo from 26 million tonnes a year to 96 million tonnes a year. 

More than $17.5 billion has been invested in this programme since 2003. The funding for Turkey’s rail construction efforts mostly came from the government, as well as credits and loans from foreign banks. In 2017 alone, railway investment budget reached 8 billion Turkish Lira, equal to roughly $1.9 billion. 

High speed rail construction in Turkey: a nationwide effort

As you’d expect, Turkey’s high speed rail efforts criss-cross the nation. It’s not surprising. Turkey covers an area of over 750,000 square kilometres – and is a vital land bridge between Europe, the Middle East, and Asia proper. Due to its importance for both cargo and passenger traffic, it is no wonder Turkey is comfortable spending billions on new rail lines. What follows is a snapshot of the high speed rail projects happening in Turkey right now.

1.   Baku-Tbilisi-Kars

Stretching 826km from Baku to Tbilisi on its west and Kars further south, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway aims to revive the Silk Road and connect Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. It will boost commercial connectivity between these three countries, as well as linking central Asia to Europe by rail and should be commissioned for use within a few short months.

First proposed in Ankara in 1993 after the closure of the Kars-Gyumri-Tbilisi railway, agreements between the countries were signed in 2005 and construction work started in 2007. 

The reported cost of this project is upwards of $600 million. Azerbaijan provided a $220 million loan to Georgia with an annual interest rate of 1% to help Georgia construct the railway on their territory.

Though mainly aimed to use for freight trains, Azerbaijan Railways has placed an order for the 30 sleeper and dining car vehicles with Stadler to be used on the Baku to Istanbul line via the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway.

2. Ankara-Bursa

The Ankara-Bursa high speed train line will reduce travel time to 2 hours and 15 minutes, and will be integrated with the Ankara-Istanbul high speed train line. Spanning 105 km, the railway proved to be very difficult to construct—some 43km of the line will consist of tunnels, viaducts and bridges. 

The construction of the project started 12 December 2012 and was supposed to finish at the end of 2014, but it was halted for about 20 months. In January 2016, it was announced that the railway has been completely restructured due to a large landslide between Yenişehir and Bilecik, costing millions of dollars. In the same month, a new route was announced to pass Mezitler.

3. Ankara-Sivas

Stretching 466 kilometre long, the Ankara-Sivas high speed railway is expected to be fully operational by 2018. Construction began in 2008 and is aimed to reduce travel time from Ankara to Sivas from 12 hours to 2 hours and 50 minutes. It has an expected annual ridership of 3 million passengers.  

The Ankara-Sivas railway was planned to cost nearly $292 million, and to be completed in 2012, but major stoppages occurred in 2010. The toughest part of the construction works include the 5km long Akdagmadeni tunnel, 6 viaducts with a total length of over 3km, a further 10 more tunnels and 67 bridges. 

Construction was divided into 4 sections; Ankara Central-Kayas, Kayas-Kirikkale, Kirikkale-Yerkoy, and Yerkoy-Sivas. It will also have connected services with the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. 

4. Ankara-Izmir

The railway will connect five big Turkish cities: Ankara, Polatli, Afyonkarahisar, Usak and Izmir. It is aimed to reduce total travel time from 14 hours to a mere 3.5 hours and scheduled to be finished and operational by 2019 should everything go according to plan, according to Transport, Maritime and Communications Minister Ahmet Arslan. The railway will pass through Afyon to meet the high speed line from Ankara to Istanbul.

Total cost of the project is estimated to surpass $1 billion. It was added to investment plans in 2008 and 26% complete by 2016. Construction has been divided into four phases: Ankara-Polatli (which has been completed and opened in 2011), Polatli-Afyon, Afyon-Uşak, and Uşak-Manisa-Izmir. 

5. Ankara-Istanbul

The 533km railway connecting Ankara and Istanbul is already partially operational, with 79% completed as of December 2016. Completion rate is expected to be at 85% by December 2017. Some parts of the service is temporarily done on conventional lines. The route will continue to Central Istanbul when the colossal Marmaray tunnel in Istanbul is completed.  

The total budget for this project is an eye-watering $2.46 billion and is partially financed through foreign sources: $1.4 billion from the European Investment Bank; $135 million from the European Union; $750 million from China Exim Bank. As of 2017, the project still needs $920 million to be fully completed. 

Interested in Turkey’s fast-paced rail tech business?

Turkey currently ranks 6th in the Europe and 8th in the world when it comes to high-speed train operations and is working furiously to connect the entire country via modern high speed railways in order to boost national economy. The time has never been better to conduct rail tech business in Turkey.

Enter Istanbul Rail Tech: a new two-day exhibition dedicated to rail technology in the Turkish and Eurasian markets. The exhibition provides a suitable platform to meet and connect with influential figures in the railway technology business. Read more about the event here. 


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