TBY talks to Süleyman Karaman, Chairman of Turkish State Railways (TCDD), on exports, high-speed rail, and international cooperation.

Süleyman Karaman
Süleyman Karaman graduated from the Mechanical Engineering Faculty of Istanbul Technical University (İTÜ) in 1978. In 1981, he received a Master’s degree from the same institution. Following this, he carried out research concerning farming machinery and worked for an automotive company. In 1994, he was appointed Deputy Director General of the Istanbul Public Transport Authority (İETT), where he took part in a variety of projects. He has been Chairman of Turkish State Railways since January 2003.

Currently, less than 1% of Turkey's exports are carried via rail. What potential do you see for rail exports in the medium term?

Upon the completion of the following planned and ongoing projects, TCDD will be a logistics bridge between Asia and Europe. With the commencement of freight transport on the Marmaray and the finalization of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) project, we intend to carry 6.5 million tons on this line per year. This project will allow for uninterrupted block train transportation between Europe and China through Turkey. The Viking Train is a significant combined transport project between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. The Viking Train will provide a connection to the Mediterranean basin, Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia via Turkey. The completion of Nusaybin-Cizre-Silopi-Habur Railway Project, which will provide a connection to Iraq, will considerably increase rail transport toward Iraq and other parts of the Middle East. When the Kars-Nakhchivan-Iran and Van Lake Crossing Projects are realized, there will be a substantial increase in the volume of rail transport toward Iran and the Middle East. A significant amount of rail transportation services will be carried out from Filyos Port, which is planned to be commissioned in 2016 and have a capacity of 25 million tons per year heading toward Russia and European countries. In total, 88 runs, 94% of which account for exports, have been performed on the Samsun-Kavkaz Ferry Line. The Derince-Tekirdağ Rail Ferry Line will make a great contribution to exports by rail to Europe via the Aegean and Marmara regions, and vice versa. Additionally, international rail transport will increase when 19 logistics centers become fully operational and block train transportation is improved.

The Minister of Transport has dubbed 2014 the year of high-speed rail. How will 2014 be a milestone year in this regard?

In the Investment Program of 2014, TL4 billion has been allocated to our enterprise. As the Minister expressed, high-speed line projects are the leading investments to be made with the funds allocated for the rail sector. Within this scope, the construction of the Eskişehir-Istanbul section of the Ankara-Istanbul High Speed Line Project has been finished and test runs have started. Upon completion of the test runs, Ankara and Istanbul, Turkey's two biggest cities, will be connected by high-speed line this year. The Yerköy-Sivas section of the Ankara-Sivas High Speed Line Project, which constitutes the East-West corridor of our country, is under construction. The tendering processes and construction works are ongoing for the Kayaş-Yerköy, Kayaş-Kırıkkale, and Kırıkkale-Yerköy sections. Upon completion of this project, the travel time between Ankara and Sivas, which is currently 10 hours, will be reduced to two hours, and it will take five hours to travel between Istanbul and Sivas. Works on the Ankara-Izmir High Speed Line, which will decrease travel times between the two cities from 14 hours to 3.5 hours, will continue through 2014. Likewise, the Bursa-Bilecik Rapid Railway Line Project, which will reduce the travel time between Ankara-Bursa and Istanbul-Bursa to 2 hours 15 minutes, and the Konya-Karaman and Sivas-Erzincan Rapid Railway Line Projects, are under construction.

How is the TCDD cooperating with international entities to increase the effectiveness of the country's rail network?

Our cooperation with the International Union of Railways (UIC), which is the largest organization with around 200 members on five continents aiming to improve the cooperation among railways across the world, is successfully continuing in the fields of high-speed operations, the production of railway vehicles and accessories, security, safety, signalization, and communication technologies. On the other side, TCDD takes part in the activities executed by the Intergovernmental Organization for International Carriage by Rail (OTIF), which intends to create a single legal regime, implement and improve it in the rail transport sector among member states. TCDD participates in activities organized within the scope of the Convention Concerning International Carriage by Rail (COTIF), which was drawn up by OTIF.