Minister of Transport announced start of liberalization on passenger trains by next year.
Four years passed after free access and three years after first private train. Two operators had started freight services, however nothing changed in passenger side. Minister of Transport stated that private trains will start service in 2021.
Here are the possible things we’ll face by next year:
Subsidies for all
The revenue of trains tickets do not meet the expenses, thus all train services are being subsidized. Subsidies were only for TCDD/TCDD Tasimacilik, but they will be available for any operator by next year. State will open tender for all passenger services that shall continue, the operator which requests minimum subsidy will be awarded.
All services except HSTs
All HSTs, main line trains and regional trains are being subsidized. No change is expected for HSTs, but tenders may be announced for some or all of main line and regional trains. Some of them like Mersin-Adana, Izmir-Denizli, Halkali-Kapikule, Pendik-Adapazari are quite busy services.
Not before 2022
The plans for usage of infrastructure is being done at the last quarter of previous year. That means, new tenders for passenger trains can be done for 2022 at the earliest. For sure, we’ll not see any private passenger train on rail before 2022.
Profit is guaranteed
Profitability is not an easy issue for private operators that started freight services 3 years ago. They are competing both with state operator and also with trucks. But passenger trains will be different. State will subsidize each service which will guarantee some profit. If companies make their calculations correctly, there’ll be no loss.
More train ads
Private passenger trains may mean more luxury, better dining cars, online tickets and seat reservation in regional trains, business/economy classes etc in long term. The fastest and biggest change is expected in marketing. We’ll surely see more train ads in social media, TVs and streets as private companies are involved.
Most critical issue is safety
As private passenger trains start, securing safe transport will be the most critical issue. First two private operators had added all loco drivers that were already retired. It will be not easy for new operators to attract loco drivers of TCDDT, thus they’ll turn their faces to fresh graduates. Experienced loco drivers accompany fresh ones in TCDDT, new operators can hardly do that. Even a little accident will cause hesitation about new operator. A bigger one is not bearable especially after Corlu and Ankara accidents.
Private companies shall focus on profitable routes
When two private operators started freight service 3 years ago, they focused on most profitable and busiest business of TCDDT. Same will happen in passenger side, private companies will focus on busy lines such as Adana-Mersin. If TCDDT loses these lines, financial loss will increase.
Private companies do not know rail
Though passenger side has some advantages compared to freight, not many companies are expected to be interested in passenger services at the beginning. Passenger transport is mainly done by buses in Turkey, and bus companies do not know anything about railways. In freight, two new operators were already involved in freight business, and were biggest clients of TCDDT.
Support of TCDDT may be needed
In freight side, locos and wagons that private operators needed were provided by TCDDT. In passenger side, in case a private operators wins the tender, it’s not easy to find a passenger train set in short time. TCDDT may again be the address.
No subsidy for touristic routes
Touristic Dogu Express was the first train in Turkey which was not for transport but for travel. Unlike standard trains, touristic trains were calling at very few stations and excursions were being organized in some stops. They were not being subsidized, thus ticket prices were much higher. Four new touristic trains are planned. Van Lake, Diyarbakir/Midyat, Pamukkale are most likely regions for new touristic trains. Private companies are not expected to start with touristic trains, at least not in first year.
Cover photo: Onur Uysal ©