For sure TCDD is a public company, inefficient, with a poor track record on quality and security. So it seems to fit the same bill as the EU railways some years ago.
But does it really? I will argue that TCDD is not at all like SNCF, FS or DB.
TCDD has technically a monopoly of railway, yet it is facing stiff competition from buses/ trucks and airplanes in the passenger and freight sectors. It’s market share is really minimal. So much so that they can close lines completely for months to perform engineering works with little impact. As the network does not serve some of big population areas, TCDD is not even a player on some markets like Bursa or Antalya. This is quite different from SNCF and DB which had a dominant position in some markets.
SNCF and DB are big financial groups. It is little known that Geodis, one of the biggest road haulers in France, is an SNCF subsidiary. Likewise, DB has many subsidiaries at home and abroad able to provide supply chain services to customers. TCDD does not enjoy the same position. It has always been under funded and this can be seen by the lack of equipment, especially on the infrastructure side, the stations are small and under equipped, there are no big yards, the sidings are not sufficient. Its few subsidiaries like Tulomsas are not in trains operations. TCDD is currently losing most of the ports it was managing.
TCDD could lose to competition some of the best traffic, as happened in France and be left with the unprofitable one. But unlike France, I don’t see TCDD able to recapture the lost business either at home or abroad. What will happen if marketing savvy Ulusoy/Varan or Pegasus are allowed to operate high speed trains between Istanbul and Ankara?
Apart from the high speed lines, it is likely that the overall traffic will not grow much. There is a huge technical hurdle to overcome: there is not enough spare capacity in network to enable growth. And there are big bottlenecks, in particular the crossing of the Bosphorus which is currently stopping any plans of turning Turkey into a railway hub. The road industry in Turkey still has a lot of scope for productivity gains and most likely will capture the best part of the traffic growth going forward.
Open access on a mostly single line network is bound to create a lot of conflicts between the train operators. A delayed train almost always has consequences on the other trains of the same line, in both directions. A robust conflict resolution process will have to be in place.
Not being familiar with the debate during the vote of the new law, it is not clear to me what are Government objectives regarding TCDD. Experience elsewhere shows that subsidy reduction is not an option. Instead of an open access, why not turn TCDD into a private company with strong government control, like Turkish Airlines which is now one of the best & most profitable airline in the world?
Cover Photo: Onur Uysal ©