The Sofia Express which started departing from Halkali directly last year, could not catch the ridership of past years.
Train, which ended bus connections and started directly departing from Halkali had carried 12 886 passengers in 2017. This is far behind the average volumes before 2011, which was around 25-28k.
In fact, Sofia expess has a very good timetable for travellers (departure from one city at night, arrival to other in the morning), has very good prices competitive with bus and is very comfortable far better than all others. In the same route, min 5 buses run every day. On the other hand, train carries 18 passengers in average every day.
Here are some suggestions to increase the ridership:
Do not waste time on internet if you want to buy tickets for Sofia train. Call center cannot help either. The only way is visiting Sirkeci or Halkali stations. If you are in your lucky day, you can reach to right person. Since there’s no online ticketing, train is not listed in the popular ticketing websites in Europe, thus many of the travellers are even not aware of the train. Most probably it’s because TCDD website is not adapted to foreign currencies. If done, ridership will increase very fast.
Departure from city center
Due to Marmaray works, train is currently departing from Halkali, where nobody is familiar and not easy to reach. There’s a bus connection from Sirkeci, but is not same as getting on train directly at city center. Fortunately, this problem will be solved by the end of this year. As Marmaray works completed, train will depart from Sirkeci.
Turkish food is worldwide famous. THY uses this issue quite effectively. It’s sad that TCDD could not. In Sofia Express, there’s no food, not even any snack in the train.
Standard seats, domestic service
You might think “who’ll prefer seat in such a long travel”, but hundreds of people travel on buses where comfort is not better, not shorter. Seats of train may even be sold cheaper, will attract passengers of bus. Furthermore, it may be an alternative service for Cerkezkoy-Edirne passengers.
Passport check at Kapikule, Unfortunately, is not done at train, but at terminal building. In the middle of the night, you get out of train, wait the queue. This is surely not a good welcome especially for the first time visitors. We should do it at train, similar to how Bulgarians do.
Cover Photo: Onur U. ©