Turkey’s commercial capital Istanbul is unfortunately has very poor train connections.Though Istanbul has a population more than many countries in the world, is the main hub of Turkey for buses and planes, has direct commercial connections with all cities and many towns in Turkey, when it comes to trains, Istanbul falls behind.
Currently, from Istanbul, there are HST services to Konya and Ankara, regional trains to Adapazari, Cerkezkoy and Kapikule, international trains to Sofia. Everyday, 17 trains depart from Istanbul in 5 different routes.
In fact, Istanbul is used to be the capital of trains once. Here below are the trains departing from Istanbul 20 years ago:
|Kiev/Moscow||Kiev Express||2 departures/week|
|Tehran||Transasya Express||1 departure/week|
|Izmir||Marmara Express (ferry connection)||3 departures/week|
|Adapazarı||Regional train||12 departures/day|
|Ankara||Başkent, Cumhuriyet, Fatih ve Anadolu, Ankara (sleeper) expresses||5 departures/day|
|Gaziantep||Toros Express||3 departures/week|
|Diyarbakır/Kurtalan||Güney Express||4 departures/week|
|Tatvan||Van Gölü Express||2 departures/week|
20 years ago, 34 trains were departing from Istanbul in 19 routes and 6 6f them were international routes. Today, plane is the first choice of passengers of Istanbul.
New trains to Belgrade and Bucharest during summer didn’t take much attraction. Sofia Express is running almost empty.
Nevertheless, trains have not lost the battle yet.
Konya and Ankara HSTs are running full though they’re calling at Pendik, very far away from city center. Same situation for Halkali-Kapikule regional train. By the end of 2018, trains will call at Haydarpasa and Sirkeci which will make trains more accessible. Marmaray, when completed at the end of this year, will provide easy acess to train stations from anywhere in Istanbul.
By next year, there’ll be no obstacles for Istanbul trains. Rest will be in the hands of TCDD Tasimacilik and other private passenger train operators if any.
Cover Photo: Onur Uysal ©
Thanks, Onur. This is very interesting. I’ve often thought that the number of passenger trains operating in Istanbul (excluding the growing network of metro and tram routes) is much less than, say, most small towns in the United Kingdom, without even thinking about cities like Manchester and Glasgow (with much, much smaller populations than Istanbul) and let’s not even think about London which also has a significantly smaller population than Istanbul (8.8 million versus 14.7 million). Of course, it’s not as simple as that, but it certainly makes you think.
Terrific information once again Onur. Steve is quite right when he mentions British trains. I am thinking here of the excellent services from say Reading or Birmingham New Street, plus all the cross county routes. Will be great when Haydarpasa and Sirkeci are fully functional once more.
The international trains to Europe are handicapped by the complete lack of good trains west of Sofia and the multiple works (and delays going with that) on the Romanian network. Also both trains from Halkali have very bad connections: if you come from Yougoslavia (wich used to be the best connection), you had to spend twenty-three hours in Sofia, now it is even impossible to go via Yougoslavia because there are no more trains between Nis and Dragoman. Via Bucurest it is hardly better: no connection between for example EN ‘Ister” or the Dacia express and the train to/from Halkali so you have to spend the night in this otherwise very nice city of Bucuresti. It would be nice to have a direct connection from Halkali to Budapest, where all the good train connections start. (via Videle/Bucuresti and Craiova for example or via Sofia and the new Duna bridge in western Bulgaria), maybe in cooperation with NIghtJet of the OeBB (wich would make booking turkish trains a lot easier from Europe aswell)…
Having trains start/terminate in Halkali is the largest problem to growing traffic on the international connections to Europe. Having these trains return to Sirkeci, within walking distance from the main tourist sights in Sultanahmet should certainly boost numbers and is great news.
However, with access to the ground-level platforms at Sirkeci now cut off, how will this work? I can’t imagine a way to start/terminate these trains in the underground, Marmaray platforms at Sirkeci. How will this work?
The ground-level platforms at Sirkeci is still connected to rail network. Thus it can be used as parking lot for Marmaray sets. As Yenikapi-Halkali connection will be completed by the end of this year, technically, all European trains can reach to Sirkeci ground level platforms.
That’s very positive news. Hopefully that’s how it works out in the end.
I go regularly between Istanbul and Sweden by train. The problem is between Sofia and Vienna, especially in the winter. Turkish trains are friendly and comfortable. Thanks. 😍
Let us know if you write/already wrote your experience in Balkan region.. We’ll be glad to share a link to it..
Good idea. I’ll write something up and send you the link. Meanwhile I’m dreaming about the train journey to Teheran 🛌🛌🛌
Hope to meet you there then..