Rail Freight

Turkey to face more demand on Europe-Asia rail corridor


Search for alternatives for Europe-Asia rail corridor has begun, where Turkey remains the only on-land alternative.  

The rail traffic between Europe and Asia, using the route via Russia has been dramatically dropped as several European forwarder companies stopped using it. Shanghai Express, organizing cargo trains on this corridor, reported that trafic has been almost halved in last 3 weeks. Some European forwarders informed their clients that they stopped using trains via Russia and are checking alternative solutions via Turkey and Caucasus.

The alternatives on rail avoiding Russia are not that many: Either using rail service via Turkey crossing Marmaray tunnel and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway or using ferry/vessel connections on Black Sea via Georgia.

As most of the projects on rail stretch at Turkey, including Marmaray, Ankara pass and Georgia rail connection had been completed, Turkey has started offering transit rail service without any interruption. This line has already been tested a couple of times for China-Europe loads succesfully.

But the harder question is still to be answered: Considering the huge volumes on rail between Europe and China, which reached around 1.5 million TEU last year, in other words 15000 trains per year or 40 full trains every day, how much of this traffic can be shifted?

Currently, the rail traffic between Turkey and Europe is being done on a single-track line where some part of it is not signalized. The line can host at most 6 trains per direction per day on this route, almost completely being used by container trains to Europe. When the the signalization works on Halkali-Cerkezkoy section are completed, the capacity is expected to reach to about 20 trains per direction per day.

Next section to be considered is crossing Istanbul using Marmaray rail tunnel under Bosphorus. Cargo trains are only allowed after midnight at Marmaray Tunnel. In first 18 months after opening, 1300 cargo trains crossed tunnel. Tunnel has a max capacity of 21 trains in each direction after midnight.

The railway section from Istanbul to Sivas via Ankara is completely signalized, mainly used by freight trains since passengers use HSTs on separate tracks, thus is ready to offer needed capacity.

On the other hand, the rest of the rail corridor to Georgia, line between Divrigi at Central Anatolia and Kars near border Georgian border is likely to determine the limits of transit traffic to Central Asia and China. This 500-km-long section is single track stretch without signalization which can offer max daily capacity of 7 trains per direction.

Turkey has been expressing its interest in getting share from China-Europe traffic. Last month, Minister of Transport, Mr Karaismailoglu, had stated that short-term target is to run 100 trains per year on this route, where middle-term is 200 and long-term is 1500 trains. Even the long-term target means only 10% of total traffic between China and Europe, thus Turkey is likely to face that this much demand quite earlier.

Cover photo: TCDD Tasimacilik©

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