Early this month, an exciting news hit the headlines: Cappadocia Express.
By liberalization of railway transportation in Turkey, private companies focused mainly on freight rather than passenger trains. This was disappointing, since diversity in service in terms of content and quality would really help especially in tourism. Dogu Express had already proved this.
Cappadocia Express is now getting prepared to be the first private passenger train service in Turkey. There had been some private train tours until now, but none could become a regular service and all was getting traction service and some also wagons from TCDD. Cappadocia Express will be the first initiative where whole team, locomotives and wagons will be provided by a private company.
We could not satisfy with the details given in the public conference. We got in contact with HIS Turkey and they reverted back very fast. Mr. Emre Ozkur, Region Manager of HIS Travel answered our questions clearly.
Mr. Ozkur, welcome, thank you for accepting our invitation. Could we tell a bit about yourself?
After graduating from Japanese Language and Literature Faculty of Canakkale University, I started my career as operation staff at HIS Headquarter in Japan. Then I moved to Bali office of HIS and worked at customer relations, reservation and purchasing departments. In 2005, HIS opened an office in Turkey, HIS Travel, and I returned back to my country. I’m now Region Manager of HIS Travel, responsible for Turkey, Dubai, Greece and Azerbaijan.
Interest of private companies in railway transportation has been limited with two companies, which had strong relations with TCDD before. HIS’ name was never heard in railway before, thus it is surprising that the first initiative in passenger side comes from this company. Can we learn more about HIS?
HIS was founded by Hideo Sawada in 1980 with the idea of taking more young people to outside of Japan for travel. Tours were so popular at that time, HIS changed the content. With low-budget plane tickets, more and more people travel personally and HIS becomes one of the best travel operators of the world with 500+ offices in 70+ countries. We have been giving service in Turkey for 16 years and we are in top 5 in business travel. HIS Travel Istanbul office is one of the most successful offices of HIS Group.
Even the name of the Cappadocia Express is so exciting. How did this idea come out?
There’s a big demand for train services in the world, huge investments are being done. We are aware that trains are more preferred by elderly travelers. There’s certainly a need in the market. This will also empower domestic tourism and create new employment.
Our story started with this: We had been giving service to our Japanese guests with Anadolu Express and Ankara Express on Haydarpasa-Ankara route. Though that was interrupted for some period during construction of high speed line, we started thinking of giving service by luxury trains for last 7-8 years. When we met Sun Group, we had the chance to step forward for realizing our dreams.
Let me ask about your partnership with Sun Group in this project. How this started?
We had shared this project years ago with Investment Office. We met Sun Group, which got the license for passenger trains. We managed to meet in mutual targets after several meetings and kicked off.
Cappadocia is a world-wide famous symbol, very popular destination for Japanese tourists and for many others. We have a cultural tour, called Anatolia tour, which has two important destinations: Istanbul and Cappadocia. We thought a train service connecting these two destinations will be so efficient.
So guests from Japan are the main target?
Not only guests from Japan, but everybody from Turkey and outside who are interested in cultural tourism are welcome at Cappadocia Express.
Where will train depart from at Istanbul?
Departure station will be Sirkeci.
Great news. In this case, your guests will get on board at center of old city and will also travel through Marmaray tunnel. What will be the frequency?
We are planning daily departures from Kayseri and Istanbul.
We’ll take our guests from Kayseri to Cappadocia by buses.
What will be new in this train?
Cappadocia Express will be the first luxury overnight train of Turkey. The train will have the comfort of 5-star hotel. Each compartment will have shower and WC.
Catering service is one of the leading competition areas in Turkey. Overnight trains, especially Ankara Express was famous with its restaurant, always full. THY also emphasized food and became successful. How that will be in Cappadocia Express?
Meals will be served to rooms in train. And there’ll be two luxury a la carte restaurants. We are working on this, have plans about Turkish and Fareast cuisines.
Since it’s announced as “luxury train”, the ticket prices are expected to be high. Is the ticket prices determined? Will there be various price categories?
We are working on pricing. Yet, I can just tell that there’ll be only one category: Luxury category.
Different than train tours organized before, whole services will be given by your team. How big is this team?
Around 200 staff will be working for Cappadocia Express.
How many passengers will travel on a train?
Train will have 14 wagons. There’ll be one type of compartments, all sleepers, with a total capacity of 294 passengers.
Any decision about locomotive?
We’ll use our own loco. We are still in contact with manufacturers.
How will be the design of locomotive and wagons?
Our designers are still working on it.
When will the first train depart?
We plan the first departure in February 2022.
Will there be any destinations, different routes in the future?
We are planning to reach to East and Southeast Anatolia, Black Sea and Aegean Sea in near future. Cappadocia Express is the first phase. In second phase, we are planning to introduce weekly routes to whole Anatolia.
Thank you, Mr. Ozkur. We wish you the best. We are looking forward to departure of Cappadocia Express.
Cover photo: Onur Uysal ©