Turkey, enormous transport potential at the heart of Eurasian Platform

Over the last decade, Turkey embarked on an ambitious movement in order to strengthen and modernise its railway network, as well as its rail connections towards European and Far East railway markets. Leading high speed rail projects are among the most appreciated and followed by the international sector market. The Turkish government is looking to increase rail use and establish high-speed rail lines between the country’s major population centres.

According to the rail transport sector strategy in Turkey, USD 45 billion (EUR 40 billion) of the USD 350 billion (EUR 309.6 billion), investment that is scheduled to be assigned to the transport sector, is planned to be allocated to railways. Of the total 13,000 kilometers of railways to be constructed until 2023, 3,500 kilometers will be of high-speed, 8,500 kilometers will be of rapid transit and 1,000 kilometers will be of conventional railways.
Turkey acknowledges railways as a preferred mode of transport for freight and is trying to identify ways to increase its share. Turkey also plans to carry freight and passengers from hubs around the country via high speed train networks that will be connected to international railway networks.
Moreover, at the end of 2018, Turkey expects to have 10,556 km of conventional line, and by 2023 all conventional lines will amount to 12,770 kilometres.
Through massive investments and projects for the development of railway transport, Turkey is seeking not only to boost the national economy (which has experienced a remarkable growth over the past four decades), but to get closer to the European Union as part of the country’s intention to join the union. Over the next three years, Turkish Railways (TCDD) plans to invest over TL 20 billion (EUR 8.4 billion) in transport-related projects.
Another important project initiated by the Government in Ankara, worth to be mentioned, is the completion, in 2017, of the liberalisation of the sector, allowing private operators to carry passengers and freight on state-owned railways, ending the decades-long state monopoly.

High speed, higher expectations

The transport sector in Turkey is expanding rapidly, in parallel with the country’s strong economic and population growth. In this context, the integration into the EU, including the connection with the trans-European transport network (TEN-T), remains a national priority. On the Union side, investments in Turkish transport infrastructure sector are significant, be they private or public under pre-accession policy. Turkey is the largest beneficiary of EU financial support among countries that aim at becoming a member of the European Union. Consequently, the modernisation or the expansion of the network shall first be financed through (foreign) private investment and by means of Public-Private Partnership (mainly based on the Built-Operate-Transfer model).
Turkey plans to open a tender to acquire 80 high-speed trains, the former Minister of Transport Binali Yıldırım has stated, adding that the expected value of the investment will be around USD 5-6 billion.
“Our ministry has been working on a tender to buy 80 high-speed trains. This will be an investment worth around USD 5-6 billion. The tender may be held by the middle of this year,” Yıldırım announced, this March, further saying that “the government planned to connect 14 cities, encompassing 55 percent of Turkey’s population, within the high-speed train network by 2023”.
The will to connect the railway network to that of Asian neighbours and toward China is clear as the two major rail projects are intended to connect Turkey and China. Consequently in an attempt to facilitate its access towards the European market, China   invests USD 30 billion (out of a total of 35 billion) in the high speed line between Edirne and Kars – to be integrated into the Trans-Asian Rail Network. China also invests USD 22 billion in the 76 km-long Turkish segment of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway project (while Turkish Government’s share is USD 450 million).
The Marmaray railway line, inaugurated in 2013, the first standard-gauge connection between Europe and Asia, is also part of this corridor.
Nevertheless, priority is still given to the routes which facilitate access to neighbouring countries and especially to projects connecting to the TEN-T network as the ‘Halkali-Kapikule-Ankara-Sivas-Kars Railway’ (linking Bulgarian to Georgian borders via Turkey); the Irmak-Karabük-Zonguldak Railway to the Black Sea, for which the electrification and signalling projects were completed in 2016. In addition, rail technical and administrative standards are more and more harmonised with those of the European Union.
With the railway transport projects developed in the past years, Turkey enjoys its position on the strategic interest map for TEN-T development.
Whether they are conventional or high speed rail projects, this sector of the Turkish industry and economy attracts the interest of the European railway supply industry.
Bursa – Osmaneli high speed project will connect Bursa to other cities like Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir. The total length of the railway will be 106 kilometers. Bandırma Port will also connect to these cities through this railway. Another benefit of the railway will be the increased capacity of the airport in the city. The budget for 2015 was TL 150 million (USD 54 million). By the end of this year, 59% of project was completed.
Ankara – Sivas high speed railway has a budget of TL 400million (USD 144 million) for the 393 km long line. By the end of 2017, 90% of the project will be completed. Final completion of project is expected to happen in 2018. “Our goal is to provide uninterrupted transport from Istanbul to Sivas via Ankara at the end of 2018”, Transport Minister, Ahmet Arslan pointed out.
Eskişehir – Izmir high speed railway is another important project. Construction works take place on the 487 km long Eskişehir – Afyon – Usak – Manisa – Izmir line. . The completion will reach to 9% by the end of 2017. The entire cost of this project is expected to reach TL 4.2 billion (USD 1.5 billion).
The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process has recently started on the Halkalı – Kapıkule railway project, 229-kilometer-long, which will become one of Turkey’s largest railway projects. The cost of this project is estimated at USD 1.08 billion. The project will include eight different destinations, and an impact map has been prepared for the railway that will pass through Istanbul, Tekirdağ, Kırklareli and Edirne. The construction of the railway project will be put up for tender by the end of 2018
once the EIA report is authorized by officials.

High speed railways will be built from Izmir to Ankara and Istanbul and will cost TRY 7 billion (USD 2.5 billion). Egeray is a project that will connect Selçuk and Bergama to Izmir’s city center. The project costs TL 1.5 billion (USD 540 million) and, according to official data, will be completed in 2017. Minister Arslan said that the Ministry he runs and the Turkish railway company want to complete the construction for the Ankara-Izmir high speed train project, which will connect two of the three largest cities in Turkey.
The Kayseri – Konya – Antalya railway is another project that is planned for the 100th anniversary of the Republic of Turkey in 2023. This project will facilitate transport to the inner regions of Turkey from the Mediterranean coast line. The distance between Kayseri and Antalya is about 500 km.
The Istanbul – Eskişehir – Afyon project is a high speed railway project and it will connect a distance of more than 500 km. When this line is finished, transport between cities such as Antalya, Izmir and Sivas by railway will be effective.
Turkish Railways announced the completion of a survey for the proposed Gölbaşı-Adıyaman-Kahta new high speed line. When the line is completed, unlike other high-speed train lines, it will be used both for passenger and freight transport. The length of the railway line is 100 kilometers and will have both passenger and freight trains will run at conventional speed.  The feasibility study will soon be launched.
Samsun-Ankara high-speed train project begins. Transport, Maritime and Communications Minister Ahmet Arslan, announced that the 95-kilometer high-speed train project between Samsun and Merzifon section feasibility study is completed and the definitive project tender process continues.
Minister Arslan, who currently is evaluating the Samsun-Çorum-Kırıkkale high speed railway project, composed of 3 lines as said that ”the project which includes the investment programme as a survey-project for Samsun-Merzifon 95 kilometers section, Merzifon-Çorum 96 kilometers section, Çorum-Kırıkkale 95 kilometers section. We have completed the study projects of all three sections this year. Final project tendering processes are continuing. We will start the construction process after finishing the exact projects of the Ankara-Samsun high-speed train project.”
Konya-Karaman high-speed train enters service at the end of 2017. Transport, Maritime and Communications Minister Ahmet Arslan said they anticipated Konya-Karaman line service until the end of the year.
Works currently continue on the Ankara-Konya and Konya-Eskişehir-Istanbul high speed railway lines.
The Minister also pointed out that the high-speed train projects are continuing at a rapid pace. Construction work has been continuing between Konya-Karaman and Adana-Gaziantep during the Konya-Karaman-Ulukışla-Mersin-Adana-Osmaniye-Gaziantep. Minister Arslan stated that the tender process of the Sivas-Zara line, which is the first part of the Sivas-Erzincan high-speed train project, is continuing and that the work continues from Yerköy to Kayseri.

by Elena Ilie

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