Prime Minister of Turkey, after driving the railcar through Marmaray Tunnel in its first trial, declared that soon it’ll be possible to depart from England and reach to China by rail.
Soon, but not now. Current status allows railcars to move in a limited area, between the central regions in European and Asian side of Istanbul. Further connection in both sides to Turkish railway network will not be ready before 2015.
Disappointed? You don’t have to. When the last train from Asia to Europe moved 18 months ago, every railway professional knew that Marmaray project would be a solution 3-4 years later.
Then what? Would trains stop passing to Asia during this time? TCDD declared an alternate solution for connection of continents, the rail ferry service between Tekirdag and Derince. Those were the days in ferry solution everybody trusted.
But day by day, ferry became a dramatic story. A lot of postpones most of which announced in last minutes, unsynchronized construction works on route, very insufficient information flow to parties.. And the result: In ferry nobody trusts..
Thus “Tekirdag Derince Ferry” becomes one of the top trend key words about Turkish railways in Google.
Now, the last announcement, although not published officially, says that the ferry will start on 5th of September 2013. The further railway connection will be opened by that time as well.
Since a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation lead the discussions about ferry, let’s evaluate every component separately to understand if this date is possible or not:
The Ferry, Erdeniz, is ready for transportation for more than a year. 30 trials had been done in 2012 with a general success, but also unveiling a problem in Derince Port ramp.
The vessel, originally constructed in Denmark, has extensive features like air balancing system to be used during loading and unloading, completely closed lines providing full security to damage of salty water, 800 line meter length in 5 lines allowing transportation of more than one full train, additional security systems for the security of wagons like air support for brakes, lock system at the end of lines etc. Ferry is able to complete a full roundtrip of Tekirdag-Derince-Tekirdag in 24 hours including loading and unloading.
The vessel is now in Haydarpasa Port, with its main crew ready for start any time, and enthusiastically waiting for the sign.
Connection From Kapikule to Tekirdag Port
The rail connection to Tekirdag Port had finished long ago, and both passenger and freight traffic has been held for more than 2 years. TCDD is encouraging transportation on that line.
IFB, having faced a lot of problems in Cerkezkoy, had already redirected its container traffic to Tekirdag Port since July, and running successfully, at least without a problem about the railway.
The Tekirdag Port
Tekirdag Port, named as Akport at those times, was operated by a private company. This company, as a part of operating contract, had constructed ferry ramp on time, and Tekirdag Port became ready for connection even before the ferry itself. Therefore, ferry trials had not faced with any problem in Tekirdag Port.
But a lot had changed since then. First the ferry service stopped without any official statement. Then Tekirdag Port was publicized and operation was started to be handled by Turkish Maritime Office. Then the permission for using the ferry ramp ended, and had not been refreshed. And the connection was abondened. A collapse in port area was the last blow.
Things are better now. The collapse had already repaired. The ramp area in port is rented by TCDD. So TCDD will have full control on ferry service. The tender for maintenance will result soon, and after a short pre-maintenance, permission of usage of ferry ramp will be renewed, which seems the only bottleneck for the ferry service.
The Derince Port
It’s been a long time after Derince Port, one of the last ports under TCDD control, had lost the whole railway traffic when the port is disconnected to railway network from both directions. The only railcar traffic has been the Russian wagons coming by ferry since then.
Then the ferry ramp for Turkish network was constructed last year. And ferry service began. Unfortunately, after some trials, it was understood that ramp was not suitable for usage in bad weather. That was the main reason to end the ferry service after 30 shipments.
Now the ferry ramp is strengthened by U-berth, where ferry can approach any time in any weather condition. Derince is ready for ferry by all means.
Further Connection from Derince
There’s ongoing construction works after Derince towards the inner parts of Asian side of Turkey, between Arifiye and Bozuyuk, 130 km long, for the renewal of conventional rail line. What makes things more complicated is that construction of new double-lane high speed rail line is also being done at the same time, and conventional lines were reconstructed in some parts between Derince and Arifiye as well.
The reconstruction work between Derince and Arifiye had partially completed, and one lane is now open for transportation.
The construction of Arifiye-Bozuyuk part has a deadline of 31st of August. And TCDD announced that line will completely be open by 5th of September, 2013, in parallel with ferry service.
The beginning of pre-maintenance will be the strongest pre-alert before starting of ferry service which will last about a week, so Rail Turkey will watch and inform its followers at the end of August if this last announcement can be real on time.