Türkiye and Bulgaria to accelerate high-speed rail connection

Türkiye and Bulgaria

Türkiye and Bulgaria are committed to launch high-speed train services on Sofia – Istanbul railway connection, as a priority transport connectivity between the two countries.

The fast connectivity will be possible through the modernisation of the railway infrastructure in Türkiye and Bulgaria.

This was acknowledged by the Bulgarian Minister of Transport and Communications, Georgi Gvozdeykov, and the new Ambassador of Türkiye to Bulgaria, Mehmet Sait Uyanik, during a meeting.

The first fast connection between Türkiye and Bulgaria

The two officials also pointed out that Plovdiv – Edirne railway line will be the first fast connection between the two countries following the completion of modernisation project which is the most advanced on the Bulgarian territory.

At the end of 2020, the representatives of Turkish State Railways, TCDD, and Bulgaria’s rail infrastructure manager, NRIC, signed an agreement to modernise and develop Sofia – Istanbul railway route with the first phase covering the 374 km section between Plovdiv and Istanbul, which includes the Svilengrad (Bulgaria) – Kapikule (Türkiye) railway which ensures the cross-border rail connection.

In addition, Türkiye and Bulgaria are working on the second rail cross-border connection along the Yambol – Lesovo – Turkish border route, a project that needs to be accelerated, the two officials said.

The project will meet the needs of the market and ease the traffic through the existing railway crossing Svilengrad – Kapakule.

Sofia – Istanbul railway project comprises the modernisation Sofia – Plovdiv and Plovdiv – Edirne rail sections and from Edirne, the connection will go towards Istanbul.

The railway route between Sofia and Plovdiv, including its rail node is part of the EU Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T) corridor which links the rest of Europe with Asia.

Halkali – Kapikule rail line is one of the iconic projects to provide cross-border connection between the two countries.

The project is located in north-west part of Türkiye and within the province of Tekirdag, in the region of Thrace, and the region of Istanbul, regions which are largely urbanised and industrialised such as Istanbul, the largest city in Türkiye.

The new project will follow the existing railway

There is an existing rail network in these regions which has a single-track layout throughout and connects Istanbul at Halkali station to the Bulgarian border in Kapikule station.

The project is broadly aligned with this existing railway from east to west and is divided into two phases with the first including Çerkezköy – Kapikule section and phase 2 involves two sections: Halkali – Ispartakule and Ispartakule – Çerkezköy.

The project will provide passenger and freight services connecting Istanbul to the district of Cerkezkoy and will link to the under-construction 155 km Cerkezkoy – Kapikule railway, which is partially funded by the European Union (EU) with EUR 275 million through IPA (Instrument for Pre-accession Assistance) of the total value of EUR 553 million.

When completed, the Çerkezköy – Kapıkule section will reach a capacity of 10 million passengers and 3.6 million tonnes of freight when completed.

The project, together with the construction of Cerkezkoy – Kapikule railway, will be part of the TEN-T connecting to Türkiye’s European border at Kapikule and will together create one integrated railway system with full interoperability.

The EUR 640 million Ispartakule – Cerkezkoy rail project obtained EUR 300 million financing from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) for the construction of a new 67 km double track electrified high-speed railway equipped with ERTMS L1 system from Ispartakule station to a location adjacent to the east of Cerkezkoy station, approximately 1 km from the center of Cerkezkoy.

Ispartakule – Çerkezköy section is also funded by the European Reconstruction and Development Bank (EBRD) with EUR 150 million.

The Halkali – Kapikule rail project has a total value of EUR 1 billion and was launched in 2019. When entirely completed, travel time will be reduced from 4 hours to 1 hour and 30 minutes and freight transport will be reduced from 6.5 hours to 3 hours.

The capacity in the line will increase fourfold, from 1.5 million tonnes to up to 9.6 million tonnes.

The entire project covers the construction of a 231 km high-speed rail connection between Halkalı and Kapıkule, including signalling, telecommunications and electrification systems in line with Technical Specifications for Interoperability.

The operational speed will be 200 km/h for passenger trains.

The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2025

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