331 - Manzhouli railway station - FELBRail Freight

Can Turkey replace Russia in China-Europe rail traffic?

Increasing tension between Russia and Turkey triggered a new discussion, bypassing Russia by shifting China-Europe traffic to Turkey.

It was not an internal polict argument, but also found space outside Turkey.

The idea of connecting Asia to Europe is one of the main targets of Turkish Government. Two railway projects, Marmaray and Baku-Tblisi-Kars railway are stated to be the milestones of creating a new transport corridor from Europe to China.

What Turkey has in mind is mainly the rail connection from China to Europe via Turkey, which is also called Iron Silk Road. The most reasonable route for a train from China to Europe via Turkey would be as follows:

  • Crossing China in East-West direction passing by Urumchi Region ending at Kazakhstan border (3650 km from Chonqing).
  • Transhipment to CIS wagons at China/Kazakhstan border due to break of rail gauge.
  • Crossing Kazakhstan using recently opened East-West rail corridor ending at Aktau Port of Kazakhstan (2800 km).
  • Crossing Caspian Sea by rail ferry ending at Baku Port (390 km).
  • Crossing Azerbaijan and Georgia ending at Akhalkalaki (750 km).
  • Transhipment to Turkish wagons at Akhalkalaki due to break of rail gauge.
  • Reaching to Kars using new rail connection from Akhalkalaki to Kars which is under construction and planned to open in 2016 (105 km).
  • Crossing whole Turkey from Kars to Derince (1788 km).
  • Crossing Bosphorus via Marmaray Tunnel from Derince to Halkalı which is under construction and planned to open in 2018 (123 km).
  • Crossing European side from Halkali to Kapikule (276 km).
  • Crossing Bulgaria, Serbia/Romania, Hungary, Austria to reach to main clients of this traffic at Germany (1700 km)

Kars-Akhalkalaki and Marmaray are not available now, but Turkey has refocused and decided to speed up Akhalkalaki-Kars connection. The railway is expected to open in first half of 2016. And there’s already an alternative solution for Bosphorus Underpass, which is the Derince-Tekirdag rail ferry service through Marmara Sea.

That means, by next year, a container train from China to Germany may be tested, using this alternative route with the following figures:

  • Two transhipments due to break-of-gauge
  • Two ferries (Caspian Sea and Marmara Sea)
  • Running on railway of 11000 km

A part of this project, train from China to Caucasus, has already been on the table, and a couple of trains run this year from China to Georgia. The countries involved in this project are also the members of TRACECA, which has been founded in 1993 to establish new transport corridors connecting Central Asia to Europe.

There are also a number of developments in favor of this idea in recent years:

  • Political conflicts between Russia and EU
  • Strong political tension between Russia and Ukraine
  • Azerbaijan’s efforts for creating a new transport connection via Turkey
  • Kazakhstan’s new investments for strengthing rail connection via Aktau Port

Yes, a rail connection from China to Europe via Caucasus and Turkey will be available soon, and appearently, there are many factors which is supporting this idea. But the key of the success, of course, lies on meeting the needs of clients.

Cover Photo: FELB ©


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s