Rail transport in Turkey

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Turkey has a well-developed, state-owned railway system built to standard gauge (1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in)) which falls under the remit of the Ministry of Transport and Communication. The primary rail carrier is the Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Devlet Demiryolları (TCDD) (Turkish State Railways) which is responsible for all long-distance and cross-border freight and passenger trains. A number of other companies operate suburban passenger trains in urban conurbations.

Native railway industry extends to the production of locomotives, passenger vehicles and freight wagons; some vehicles are also produced through licensing agreements and cooperation with foreign countries.

In the early 21st century, major infrastructural projects were initiated; such as the construction of a high-speed railway network as well as a tunnel under the Bosphorus strait which will connect Europe and Anatolia by rail for the first time.

Turkey is a member of the International Union of Railways (UIC). The UIC Country Code for Turkey is 75.


Construction of the first railway line in Turkey began in 1856, being constructed by a British company that had gained permission from the Ottoman Empire. Later, French and German companies also constructed lines - the motivation was not only economic, the region had a strategically important position as a trade route between Europe and Asia.[1]

As with other countries, rapid expansion followed; by 1922 over 8000 km of lines had been constructed in the Ottoman Empire.[note 1] At the birth of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, there were 3,660 km of standard gauge lines, of which 1,378 km were state-owned; while the lines owned by foreign investors were eventually nationalized starting from 1927. The railways were considered an essential part of the state by the government of the Republic, and continued to expand with new railway projects - over 3000 km of new tracks were built in Turkey between 1923 and 1940. Railways were constructed serving mines, agriculture, people and ports; at the same time more lines serving eastern Anatolia were built, in their part helping to tie Turkey together as a functioning state.[1]

In the years following World War II, the emphasis in transportation shifted to asphalt road and highway construction;[1] it was not until the end of the 20th century that railways returned to favour with major passenger infrastructure projects being initiated,[2][3] and five thousand kilometres of new lines planned for construction.[4]

Future restructuring[edit]

The Turkish State Railways (TCDD) may be split with the passenger and freight operations being part of a new company named DETAŞ (Demiryolu Taşımacılığı Anonim Şirketi, meaning Railway Transport Company) with TCDD left as a track and infrastructure operator.[5] This restructuring will also allow other rail operators to run trains on TCDD tracks by means of track access charges, and will end the monopoly of TCDD.[6]

The new law about liberalization of Turkish railway transportation is accepted by Turkish Parliament and approved by the President of Turkey in April 2013.[7] According to the law, TCDD will stay as the owner of infrastructure and the new company TCDD Taşımacılık AŞ will be operating the trains. Private companies will soon be allowed to run on TCDD infrastructure as well as the new infrastructure owned by private companies if constructed.[8]


In 2008, Turkey had 10,991 km of railway lines, of which 95% were single-tracked,[note 2] 21% of the network was electrified and 28% signalled. Due to the mountainous geography of the country, the network has many steep gradients and sharp curves.[9]

As of Dec 2012, total railway lines reached to 12008 km. 888 km of this is high speed rail network. 3216 km of this network is electrified (%27), and 4016 km of it is signaled (%33).[10] Turkish Ministry of Transportation has a plan of constructing 4000 km conventional and 10000 km high speed lines till 2023.[11]

Electrified lines run from Kapıkule on the Bulgarian border via Istanbul to Ankara, and from Divriği via Malatya to İskenderun on the Mediterranean coast.[9] Additionally, Sivas and İzmir have electrified networks.

High-speed rail lines[edit]

As of 2009, a program of building a national high-speed rail network is underway; Istanbul is to be connected via Eskişehir and Polatlı to Ankara, and Ankara to Sivas. A line from Polatlı to Konya is also being constructed, making Polatlı a junction on the high speed network.[9]

Lines are also planned from Polatlı via Afyon to Izmir, from Yerköy (on the line from Ankara to Sivas) to Kayseri, from Osmaneli (on the Istanbul-Polatlı section) to Bursa, and to Edirne on Turkey's European border.[9]

The first completed section of the high-speed line between Ankara and Eskişehir was openened by the Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on March 13, 2009.[12]

As of February 2014, there are three high speed lines running, Ankara-Eskisehir, Ankara-Konya and Eskisehir-Konya. The Istanbul-Eskisehir extension which will connect two major cities of Turkey, Istanbul and Ankara, is planned to start in 2014. Bursa, Sivas and Izmir are the other cities to be connected to high speed line network which are under construction.[13]

Passenger transport[edit]

In addition to high speed lines, there are several regular trains for passenger transportation. Almost all the network is covered by these passenger trains, which are mostly departing every day.[14] In addition to high speed trains, there are several types of wagons being used for railway transport like pulman, sleeping cars, couchette, dmu and emu sets. In 2011 more than 26 million passengers used trains for domestic transportation (suburban lines are not included in this number). Due to cancellation of many trains because of renewals of rail network, ridership decrease to less than 20 million in 2012. As of 2013, the ridership reached to 20.9 million (16.7 million by conventional trains, 4.2 million by high speed trains).[15]

As of May 2014, there are several construction points in Turkish rail network which is causing complete or partial closures.[16]

Urban transport[edit]

Trams have operated in Istanbul since 1872, first being pulled by horses, and after 1912 by electric power. The system was run by the Dersaadet Tramway Company during the Ottoman period. In the 1960s, trams were removed from the streets of Istanbul in favour of wheeled vehicles such as buses and trolleybuses. However, the decision for returning to rail-based transportation solutions was made in 1985 by the Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality, and in 1988 Istanbul Ulaşım was created as a subsidiary.[17]

There are also metro and other rapid systems in Ankara (Ankara Metro), Adana (Adana Metro) opened to service in May 2010; 14 km long with 13 stations, Antalya (Antalya Tramway), Bursa (Bursaray), Eskisehir (Estram), Gaziantep (Gaziray), Izmir (Izmir Metro), Kayseri (Kayseray), Konya (Konya Tramway) and Samsun (tramway).

TCDD also operates some urban transport such as Marmaray in Istanbul and Izban in Izmir. Izban is a 50%-50% joint venture of TCDD and Izmir Mayorship and ridership in Izban reached to 61 million passengers in 2013 (21% increase compared to 2012). This is 70% of all urban services of TCDD (Ankara, Marmaray, Haydarpasa, Sirkeci).[18]

Railway across the Bosporus straits[edit]

Main article: Marmaray project

The Marmaray project aims to provide a mass transit system to Istanbul by connecting the European and Asian subway and railway lines of the city through the world's deepest immersed tube railway tunnel across the Bosphorus strait. The tunnel will be suitable for both national and international express, freight, and mass transit trains. The project is expected to be completed by 2011.[19]

The first trial run through Marmaray Tunnel done on 4 August 2013.[20] On 29 October 2013, the first phase of Marmaray project -the underground part- is planned to be opened. The second phase, further connections on ground, will be ready by 2015.[21]

International connections[edit]

Turkey has railway links with Bulgaria, Greece and Syria via standard gauge lines.

Trains to Iraq must be routed via Syria; the section of the tracks within Syria, between the Turkish and Iraqi borders is 81 km long. From March 5, 2012 due to the civil war in Syria, all rail services from Turkey to Syria were stopped; as a consequence freight going from Turkey to Iraq was routed to Nusaybin in southeast Turkey, from where it was transported to Iraq by truck.[22]

The Iranian rail network is connected to the Turkish rail network via the Lake Van train ferry close to the border - which creates a serious bottleneck.[23][note 3][22] In 2007 an agreement was made to create a rail link between the two countries.[24]

A new connection to the Caucasus region and Central Asia via Georgia and Azerbaijan is planned (see the Kars–Tbilisi–Baku railway); the line will involve a break of gauge from 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) to 1,520 mm (4 ft 11 2732 in). The construction of the line is planned to be completed by 2014 and has a target of transporting 17 million tons of cargo per year.[25] This railway by-passes the Kars–Gyumri–Tbilisi railway line that connected Turkey to Armenia which was closed in 1993[26] during the Nagorno-Karabakh War; in 2009 the possibility of re-opening the line was stated by the Armenian transport minister.[27]


Turkish State Railways[edit]

In combination with its affiliates, the State Railways of the Republic of Turkey (Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Devlet Demiryolları, TCDD) have a monopoly on passenger[note 4] and freight rail transportation, as well as the manufacturing of rolling stock and tracks.[28] The organization was created in 1927 to operate the former railway lines of the Ottoman Empire that were left within the borders of the Republic of Turkey whose boundaries were defined with the Treaty of Lausanne in 1923. Additionally, major ports are also operated by the company.[9]

Affiliated companies[edit]

Three affiliated companies of the TCDD produce rolling stock for the Turkish railway system: TÜDEMSAŞ (Türkiye Demiryolu Makinaları Sanayii A.Ş.) produces and repairs freight wagons,[29] TUVASAS (Türkiye Vagon Sanayi A.Ş.) manufactures coaching stock as well as diesel hydraulic railcars,[30][31] and has a technology transfer agreement with Rotem of Korea to manufacture Diesel multiple units[32] as well as a joint venture with Rotem, EUROTEM, to outfit and test high-speed train sets and suburban trains.,[33][34] and TÜLOMSAŞ (Türkiye Lokomotif ve Motor Sanayi A.Ş.) which produces diesel and electric locomotives and related components; the company has produced locomotives under license from numerous companies over the years, including Krauss-Maffei, GM-EMD, Toshiba and Alstom.[35]

Statistical information[edit]

As of 2008, there were 8,699 km of main railway lines in Turkey, of which 5% are double tracked, 28% are electrified and 25% are signalled; there are also 2,306 km of sidings.[36]

The most common rail weight is ~49 kg/m with 69% of track, the remainder being of lighter weight rail, except for 150 km of 60 kg/m rail. Similarly, 69% of sleepers are of the concrete type, with the remainder being wood (~19%) and steel (~12%). Over 700 tunnels exist, with a total length of 181 km; the majority (~76%) are under 1 km long and only one of them has a length of over 4 km. 1,316 steel bridges (average length 22 m) and over 10,000 concrete bridges (average length 2.9 m) exist, the majority (99%) are suitable for axle loads over 20 t, with 40% allowing axle loads of 22.5 tonnes.[36]

In 2008, there were 64 electric locomotives and 549 diesel locomotives in Turkey, with availabilities of 81 and 84 percent, respectively. Additionally, 50 steam locomotives exist, of which 2 are kept in active order. In addition to the 83 EMUs and 44 DMUs for passenger transport, there were 995 coaches in Turkey (830 of which were in working order.) Over 17,000 wagons of various types make up the rest of the fleet.[36]

See also[edit]

References and notes[edit]


  1. ^ In the Ottoman Empire: some parts of lines extending into the middle east would not be incorporated into the Turkish State on its creation
  2. ^ 8697km of lines
  3. ^ Not only do trains need to be split for ferry transport, but the 91km water journey takes 5 hours. (See Economic and social commissioner for Asia and the Pacific: Development of the Trans-Asian Railway in the southern corridor of asia-europe routes United Nations, page 42, Peter Hodgkinson www.unescap.org
  4. ^ Excluding urban mass transit systems, and tram networks.


  1. ^ a b c Turkish State Railways : Railway policies throughout the 80 years of our history www.tcdd.gov.tr
  2. ^ Ministry of Transport and Communications : Ankara-Istanbul high speed train project www.ubak.gov.tr
  3. ^ Ministry of Transport and Communications : Marmaray project www.ubak.gov.tr
  4. ^ Ministry of Transport and Communications : Strategic Aims and Targets (section "strategy") www.ubak.gov.tr
  5. ^ On the fast track to reform 09/03/2009, railwaygazette.com
  6. ^ Government mulls comprehensive railway reform 30/07/2008
  7. ^ "Law of Liberalization of Railway Transportation (in Turkish)" Turkish Parliament
  8. ^ Uysal, Onur. "Turkish Republic Liberalized Railways", Rail Turkey, 24 March 2013
  9. ^ a b c d e Presentation of the Rail Transport:Turkey Tevfik Muhammed, Engineer, Turkish State Railways (TCDD), 21/11/2008 www.euromedtransport.org
  10. ^ Turkish State Railways Annual Statistics 2008-2012
  11. ^ Uysal, Onur. "2023 Targets in Rail Freight - Network", Rail Turkey, 11 July 2013
  12. ^ Turkey high speed launch 13/03/2009 railwaygazette.com
  13. ^ Uysal, Onur. "5 Billion Needed Annually for High Speed Trains", Rail Turkey, 30 Jan 2014
  14. ^ Uysal, Onur. "Traveling by Train in Turkey", Rail Turkey, 5 Mar 2014
  15. ^ Uysal, Onur. "Turkish Railway Industry Report 2013 – Passenger", Rail Turkey, 24 July 2014
  16. ^ Uysal, Onur. "Where is Closed in Turkish Railways?", Rail Turkey, 16 May 2014
  17. ^ Istanbul Ulasim www.istanbul-ulasim.com
  18. ^ Uysal, Onur. "Turkish Railway Industry Report 2013 – Passenger", Rail Turkey, 24 July 2014
  19. ^ Rails under the Bosporus 23/02/2009 railwaygazette.com
  20. ^ www.theguardian.com 05/08/2013 The Guardian
  21. ^ Uysal, Onur. "Completely False Facts About Marmaray", Rail Turkey, 20 May 2013
  22. ^ a b Kayalar, Ali (27 September 2012), "No Turkish Trains Arrive in Syria, Iraq for Months", www.hurriyetdailynews.com (Hurriyet Daily News) 
  23. ^ Country report of Republic of Turkey in the field of transport and telecommunication page 3, United Nations Economic and Social commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) www.unescap.org
  24. ^ Turkey, Iran agree on joint railway 27/7/2007 yenisafak.com.tr
  25. ^ Uysal, Onur. "Baku Tbilisi Kars Railway to be Opened in 2014", Rail Turkey, 15 June 2013
  26. ^ The closed Armenia-Turkey border:Economic and social effects, including those on the people; and implications for the overall situation in the region Study produced for the European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs Committee on Development, Author :Nathalie Tocci, Co-authors: Burcu Gültekin-Punsmann, Licínia Simão, Nicolas Tavitian, August 2007, (specifics p14) www.europarl.europa.eu
  27. ^ Armenia-Turkey railway network may be launched in couple of days 11/11/2009 www.armtown.com
  28. ^ Project information document (PID) : Railways restructuring project (Turkey) World Bank, 2009, www-wds.worldbank.org
  29. ^ TÜDEMSAŞ Company website www.tudemsas.gov.tr
  30. ^ TUVASAS Company website www.tuvasas.com
  31. ^ Tuvasas, Manufacturers and services - Locomotives and passenger vehicles (Turkey) www.janes.com
  32. ^ Hyundai Rotem newsletter No.15 page 2, 2008, www.hyundai-rotem.co.kr
  33. ^ Hyundai Rotem newsletter No.16 page 3, 2009, www.hyundai-rotem.co.kr
  34. ^ İlk hızlı tren fabrikası üretime başlıyor Plant begins production of the first high speed train, October 2008, www.tumgazeteler.com
  35. ^ TÜLOMSAŞ Company brochure www.tulomsas.com.tr
  36. ^ a b c TCDD annual report 2008 www.tcdd.gov.tr

External links[edit]