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Turkish rail network prepares for the future

Posted: 2 April 2013 | James Abbott, Technical Editor, Global Railway Review | No comments yet

Turkey is a country on the move. It has a younger and faster growing population than anywhere in Europe. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicts Turkey will be the second fastest-growing country in the world by 2018, and by 2025 the Turkish economy is expected to outstrip those of Canada, Spain and Italy. The country is building a railway to service this fast-growing economy. Since a decision made a decade ago that Turkey’s railway should be modernised rather than gently left to rot as it had been beforehand, substantial progress has been made in building a system fit for the 21st century.

Turkey is a country on the move. It has a younger and faster growing population than anywhere in Europe. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) predicts Turkey will be the second fastest-growing country in the world by 2018, and by 2025 the Turkish economy is expected to outstrip those of Canada, Spain and Italy. The country is building a railway to service this fast-growing economy. Since a decision made a decade ago that Turkey’s railway should be modernised rather than gently left to rot as it had been beforehand, substantial progress has been made in building a system fit for the 21st century.

Turkey is a country on the move. It has a younger and faster growing population than anywhere in Europe. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD1) predicts Turkey will be the second fastest-growing country in the world by 2018, and by 2025 the Turkish economy is expected to outstrip those of Canada, Spain and Italy. The country is building a railway to service this fast-growing economy. Since a decision made a decade ago that Turkey’s railway should be modernised rather than gently left to rot as it had been beforehand, substantial progress has been made in building a system fit for the 21st century.

The standard-bearer for the new-look railway is TCDD’s (Turkish Railways) expanding network of high-speed lines. Trains capable of speeds up to 250km/h were launched between Ankara and Eskisehir in March 2009, stealing traffic from the roads and pushing TCDD’s market share between the two cities up from just 10% to 75%.

The second high-speed line, from Ankara to Konya, was inaugurated in August 2011. This marked a leap forward for rail passengers, with the journey time from the capital slashed from 10 hours and 30 minutes to one hour and 30 minutes. This dramatic improvement was possible as the new line takes a direct route just 306km-long instead of the previous uncompetitive 688km circuitous route via Afyon. The Konya route shares the Eskisehir route on the exit from Ankara as far as Polatili, where it branches off southward; altogether the new route has 212km of new double-track line.

Chief contractor for electrical and mechanical equipment on the new line was Yapı Merkezi, with subsidiary Rayton building a track assembly facility to supply the new line at Pinarbasi near Konya. Overhead line equipment was designed and installed by Balfour Beatty GmbH, while signalling and control equipment came from Invensys’ Spanish subsidiary Dimetronic and telecommunications equipment from Kapsch CarrierCom.

More high-speed lines

Next stage in the high-speed programme is to extend the Ankara–Eskisehir line to Istanbul Work is currently underway and the line is expected to be completed in 2015. A three-hour journey from Ankara to Istanbul is the target.

In tandem with construction of that route, a line will be built branching southwest off the Konya line, running 167km to Afyon. The contract for the construction of the Afyon route was signed in 2012 with a consortium of Sigma, Burkay, Makimsan and YDA.

The difficult terrain means this line will have 11 tunnels totalling 8km and 16 viaducts measuring a total of 6.3km. The journey time from Ankara to Afyon will be one hour and 30 minutes. This is the start of a new line that will eventually run for over 600km, joining Ankara to Izmir.

Meanwhile, to the east of the capital, a line is planned from Ankara to Sivas and Erzincan.

Cross-Bosphorus

At its western end the Ankara–Istanbul highspeed line will make use of the Marmaray tunnel – an ambitious project linking Istanbul and the sliver of Turkey on the European side of the Bosphorus with the Asian land mass. The 13.3km-long tunnel, aimed at easing congestion on the road bridges spanning the Bosphorus, is planned to open in October 2013.

This is a hugely ambitious project in an area of the globe notorious for earthquakes. The 1.4km of submersed tube under the sea have been designed to withstand tectonic activity with a steel casing round a watertight concrete wall and flood gates to shut off sections of the tunnel if necessary.

In addition to the submersed tube are almost 10km of bored tunnels under land, plus some cut-and-cover tunnels to link into existing railway lines. There will be three tracks, two for commuter services and freight, and one for high-speed trains.

Connections to existing railway lines will not be finished till 2014: for the first few months a shuttle service is envisaged. When complete, Istanbul, a metropolis of 13 million people, will gain a 75km commuter spine tying together regions on both sides of the Bosphorus.

Invensys Rail subsidiary Dimetronic was awarded a contract for the train control in the Bosphorus tunnel in November 2011. This is an interesting project as it will feature both Computer-Based Traffic Control (CBTC) and European Rail Traffic Management System (ERTMS). The two commuter tracks will be equipped with both systems, while the highspeed track will have only ERTMS. Dimetronic will supply its Sirius CBTC and Futur ERTMS products.

Rolling stock

Commuter rolling stock for the Marmaray project is being supplied by Hyundai Rotem of South Korea, which is building 34×10-car and 20×5-car EMUs for the cross-Bosphorus service.

Rotem also won the contract to supply 40 EMUs for commuter services on the new 79km-long Egeray line serving Turkey’s third largest city, Izmir, which opened two years ago. Rotem has set up relationships with local suppliers and these trains have been built in Turkey. Besides EMUs, Rotem has supplied 80 electric locomotives to TCDD and regards Turkey as a springboard from which to penetrate markets in Europe and the Mediterranean rim.

Meanwhile, U.S. giant General Electric has set up a partnership with Tülomsaş which will see the Turkish manufacturer become the main supplier of PowerHaul diesel locomotives for Europe, Turkey, the Middle East, and North Africa. PowerHaul is the GE design for this region; the first PowerHauls were built in Erie, USA, and delivered to Freightliner in the UK in 2009, but future orders are expected to be fulfilled from Turkey.

Over the next two years Tülomsaş will assemble at least 50 PowerHauls at its plant in Eskisehir, 20 of which will be built for TCDD and the remaining 30 for regional export markets. The first PowerHaul in this programme was a demonstrator loco which left Turkey last October for testing in Britain. The partners aim to increase PowerHaul production at Eskisehir to 50-100 units annually, of which 30-70 machines will be for export markets.

On the high-speed network, TCDD operates a fleet of 12×6-car EMUs built by CAF. Alstom has recently won a two-year maintenance contract for this fleet.

The CAF trains operate at speeds of up to 250km/h, but for the next phase of its high-speed programme TCDD has a top speed of 300km/h in mind. It is looking for seven new trains capable of this higher speed to be purchased with a loan from the Islamic Development Bank.

Signalling modernisation

Turkey is leaping ahead of many European countries in the modernisation of its signalling infrastructure. The Marmaray project will feature ERTMS Level 1 for high-speed trains and CBTC for commuter trains.

The first stage of TCDD’s high-speed system, from Ankara to Eskisehir, is equipped with ERTMS Level 1. But for the second stage, the line from Ankara to Konya, Yapı Merkezi and Invensys Rail Dimetronic are implementing an ERTMS Level 2 Futur 2500 system. Six of the 12-strong fleet of high-speed trains are being adapted so that they can use both Level 1 and Level 2.

Meanwhile, Thales has signed a €20 million contract with TCDD to install Level 2 on the 250km double-track Eskisehir–Sincan section of the Ankara–Istanbul high-speed line now under construction.

Level 2 is also being installed elsewhere, with Invensys Rail and civil engineering company Fermak having been awarded a contract to provide this on the 310km-lone line linking Bandirma on the Sea of Marmara with Menemen near Izmir.

With a programme of track upgrading and electrification on the historic network complementing Turkey’s new lines programme, by mid- 2020 the country will boast a modernised network unrecognisable from that which existed 20 years ago.

In his article for Global Railway Review in 20122, Süleyman Karaman, Director General and Chairman of the Board of TCDD concluded: “The railway network in Turkey is important for economic development and its heritage is not just for the people who work on the railways or the decision-makers of the owners, but also for the Republic of Turkey as a whole. To hand over this heritage to the next generations is vitally important…all forthcoming projects will be executed with determination so that the Turkish railway network can reach the level it deserves.”

References:

  1. www.oecd.org
  2. Global Railway Review, Volume 18, Issue 2 2012. To order a back issue copy at £15.00, please contact Karen Hutchinson via email at [email protected].

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