There’s an potential volume of 2-2.5 million to/year ex Turkey to Iran and CIS countries.
Current rail ferries are very old, capacities are very low, running inefficiently. Thus, export volume by rail through that line was only 159k to. Van Lake ferries cannot supply the demand and cause excess amount to be transported by trucks.
There are 4 rail ferries running on Van Lake. Each has a capacity of 400-450 to. Depending on the type, they can take 9-14 wagons. Transit time is 5 hours. They use old technology and over 30 years old. Thus, they are frequently facing with technical problems, and taken out of service. In average, only 2 ferries are on service, completing 2 roundtrips a day. That means a daily capacity of 1500-1800 to in one direction. Nowadays, 10 000-12 000 to of loads are waiting at Tatvan for about 1.5 months, which cannot be lessen due to continious wagon flow to Tatvan. In order to solve this congestion, TCDD stopped accepting new loads to Iran and CIS countries for 10 days which had not helped taking away the queues.
Since ferry service on Van Lake is thought to be the bottleneck, a project was prepared to have a railway connection from the north of the lake. This 239 km railway project has never started to be built.
2 rail ferries each with a capacity of 50 wagons are under construction. First is going to be launched by the end of this month. Other ferry is planned to be built by the end of 2015. Each ferry can take up to 4 500 to (10 times of the existing ferries). Transit time will be 3-3.5 hours.
There’s another project to replace this ferry connected Turkey-Iran line: Kars-Igdir-Nakhchivan Railway Project. With this project, Nakhchivan (autonomous district of Azerbaijan) will be connected to world. The project is 230 km long, most of which is on Turkish part. It’s a double lane, electrified, ready for 250 km/h speed railway. The project needs about one billion USD. It’s ready for construction, and is expected to last 4 years after kick off.
There’s also a direct railway connection to Iran via Kars-Armenia which has been kept closed since 1994 because of politicial reasons.