Hello Onur have just found your terrific website. I live in Melbourne, love trains and travel to work on electric Metro and then DMU. Like many Australians I have been to Turkey (three times in my case), but have never travelled on Turkish trains – other than from Sirkeci out to the end of the line on the Metro – plus had a look at wonderful, wonderful Haydarpasa station on last visit (2012). Hoping to get back to your beautiful country next year – your information on train travel within Turkey is really excellent. Best wishes.
What professionals and travellers say?
I visited Istanbul in march 2015 and march 2017. Using the line between Ayrılıkçeşmesi and Yenikapı several times I’m very impressed with the system. Spacious trains, clean stations and cars and very affordable with the Istanbul kart. About me: tram driver from Munich/Germany, discovering urban and suburban railway systems around the world.
How is it that tickets are immediately sold out as soon as they are released for sale? Do travel agencies buy all the places? What is TCDD doing to make it possible for ordinary passengers to reserve sleeping-car places?
I could see one reason why tourists would not use the Bosphors Express and that is the time spent crossing, entering and departing borders as well as when this takes place, in the early hours of the morning. Perhaps a daylight train leaving from the old station in Istanbul would be an incentive for tourists rather than travelling 25 Km to start the journey.
Passenger rail travel needs to be marketed and encouraged locally and abroad as a
pleasurable experience and a relaxed and leisurely way of travel. Dining car offerings need
to be upgraded. It is really a wonderful way to explore and enjoy the country. Bring back Haydarapasa!! What a fantastic way to leave and enter that wonderful city.
Another good article. I agree with everything you’ve said. The route from West to East has been so fragmented for so long that it will take a lot of work to bring the numbers back up. I hope the investment isn’t wasted and is supported by positive marketing and increased information for all. As someone who’s twice travelled through Turkey by train I know it’s a great network – but it needs to be easier for passengers.
In my experience, people will use trains if there is a reliable, user-friendly service with easy to access information (timetables for instance), fare choices, maps of the system (as on the London Underground, most stations in Britain and websites/apps like National Rail Enquiries). Otherwise they will find some other means of transport. I would love to travel by train from Istanbul to Ankara, but not unless I can leave from Haydarpasa, All too problematic and difficult for the tourist!
It is stupid to believe that you can totally cancel all train-connections for years and the customers just will come back after the service is reopened. No! The travellers have been let in a cold rain by TCDD and they was forced to find other travelsolutions. And now a big part of them will keep this other solutions. In no other countries the railway-companies thread their customers such hardly then in Turkey. And even if the new high-speed-connections are very fine and they are good to win additional customers, to keep the old customers it is absolutely necessary to restore all old connections, what means not only to run YHT-trains between Istanbul and Ankara. People also want normal trains between this important cites with frequent stops and lower prices and also an overnight train with couchette and berth. 7 hours between Istanbul and Ankara is long enough to spend the night on rails and save hotelcoasts.
Hard to get good info about passenger services in Turkey, especially if one does not speak Turkish (which alas I don’t!) You are doing a terrific job providing this excellent, easy to understand guide to what is available and how to get to places. Many thanks!
Have visited many of these places in the last 14 years mostly on overnight sleeper trains
which was fantastic. Trip from Ankara to Kars, Istanbul – Konya, Istanbul – Denizli and Izmir, Adana to Ankara. Al really worth trying. Hope to be able to travel to Baku in future.
For diesel locomotives pollution is a definite result. But for electric locomotive, it is dependant on the contributions for various sources feeding into the grid. Out of various sources for electric power the only polluting sources are coal and diesel/ Gas. so if a country is getting say 80% of its power from polluting sources. even then there is a reduction of 20% in pollution levels.
Indian Railways has taken a recent decision to go in for 100% electrification. That means that it will be going to be to be slow in induction of new diesel locomotives. The main reason behind this decision is to help clean up the air. On power generation side there is a simultaneous push for non-polluting technologies. So I see my country going in the right direction.
I would actually argue that even in electric cars, some of the responsibility for energy use lies with the car manufacturer and user. For example, the British government likes to say that it’s reducing carbon emissions, but sometimes the reason is because production has moved to China! In this case, clearly the emissions are still happening and the British government is still partly responsible, but in its reporting it’s able to make itself look more green. Some of TCDD’s energy impact MAY (I say may because I don’t know for certain!) be like this.
I think your report is largely very fair, I just wanted to suggest caution in interpreting the data. For example, because of the possible problems I listed in my last post, I don’t know if we can say for certain that TCDD’s electrification is worth a forest. In the short-term, all their hard work to prepare the railway may have cost a forest. I would also argue that we can’t say the decrease in fuel consumption means 80 million kg of CO2 have been prevented – some, most or all of this CO2 will still have been released, but just not from diesel.
However, I accept that in the long-term this is definitely a good news story that Turkey should be proud of and very important to share so thank you for reporting it.
Also, I honestly think that a comfortable long distance train İstanbul – Budapest (or even Vienna) would attract a decent number of passengers. Now, the connection at Sofia is a disaster and Serbian tracks and trains are, unfortunately, in extremely bad condition. Romanian cars are not that much better and the connection in Bucureşti Nord (or Videle) is just as bad as in Sofia. The horrible connections and cars even put me off, and I’m a very stubborn train traveller. This summer again, I missed my connection at Sofia forcing me to spend a day there.
Why are there so few passengers on the Sofia/Bucarest-Halkali Istanbul route ? Well, I took the Bucarest Halkali sleeper last month, but only very few people know it exists. The DB or SBB online timetable show all the relations with train changes (3 train changes for the Bucarest Halkali train) but they don’t mention anything about direct carriages (…) – If they would update their website info, or if TCDD would tell them to do, then they would stand a chance to attract more travellers (apart from the rail enthusiasts, the Interrail travellers …)
The stated “cost” of running any given passenger service is very susceptible to political interference. That is a general comment, not one specifically aimed at Turkey. So if the aim is to make the infrastructure company “profitable”, then the track access charges will increase, causing fares increases, and making the train operations unprofitable. Conversely, if the imperative is to maintain the level of fares, then the infrastructure company will become unprofitable. The only thing I am certain about is that the existing bloated TCDD Tasimacilik train operation will need to shed vast numbers of its staff in order to become profitable, or to be able to compete with private operators. That could become very unpopular indeed.
What has been achieved with the IZBAN system is impressive, but the system is plagued by a problem common to many urban systems: long journeys (Aliağı to Alsancak, for example) are tedious with the many stops. This reminds me of what it is like travelling from Heathrow Airport to central London on the Piccadilly Line. There needs to be consideration for the provision of express/limited stop services and this will certainly be necessary to encourage tourists to use the IZBAN for places such as Selçuk and Bergama. The IZBAN is also a way to access Foca (combined with ESHOT bus services) but would be more attractive with an express service.
Another slight problem with the timetable information on the TCDD website as regards regional trains is that, for example, if I wanted to check the times of trains from Basmane to Torbali, I would need to look at 5 different files to get the whole picture: Basmane – Denizli. Basmane – Nazilli; Basmane – Soke; Basmane – Tire and Basmane – Odemis. If I want to make the short journey from Aydin to Nazilli, I still need to check 4 files. From the point of view of a traveller, I don’t see the point in listing the Basmane – Nazilli services separately from Basmane – Denizli, although it maybe suits administrators.
As is usual in Turkey, everything is arranged to suit the engineers building the project, and no thought whatsoever is given to the effect on the passengers and freight customers. TCDD project planning is a complete shambles. As if destroying the railways into Istanbul for several years is not enough, now they plan to isolate Ankara too.I wonder if Konya to Karaman will reopen before Ankara closes?