Turkey - General Information
National Railway System
National Railway Operator
Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Devlet Demiryolları, which in translation means State Railways of the Republic of Turkey. The state railway is normally abbreviated as TCDD.
In 2016 TCDD's operating activities were transferred to a stand-alone business known as TCDD Taşımacılık AŞ
Turkish. Modern Turkish script is based on Latin script. However, some special characters are used for language specific sounds. Turkish is the only official language although the Turkish government accepts the language rights of the Jewish, Greek and Armenian minorities. Kurdish, spoken by 6% of the population, is not recognised as an official language.
Outside the large cities and main tourist areas, knowledge of a foreign language is rare. German and English are the languages most likely to be encountered.
See Useful Words & Phrases for some useful words & phrases related to rail travel, which phrase books etc may well not give.
Turkish Pound (Türk Lira)
numeric 75; alpha TR
- Ankara - Eskişehir high speed service: www.hizlitrenbileti.com
- Domestic travel: A much improved journey planner is now available. It comes up in Turkish but the language can be switched to English. This is intended primarily as a ticket purchasing service, but fortunately functions as a journey planner as well. If no service is found for the journey & date specified a small pop-up window saying "Kriterlerinize Uygun Sefer Bulunmamaktadır" will appear near the top of the screen. If a service is found a further screen will appear. Click on the Train Name to bring up a pop-up window giving the full stopping pattern and timings of the train. The departure and arrival stations requested are highlighted in yellow. Only direct trains are shown: potential passengers appear to be expected to work out their own possible connections.
- Android: TCDD e-Bilet
- IOS (IPhone): TCDD e-Bilet
- High Speed Trains Ankara - Konya; Ankara - Pendik (Istanbul); Konya - Pendik.
- Main Line Trains
- Domestic: Bölgesel Seferler then select the desired line in the appropriate "Bölge" (Region).
- Marmaray (Istanbul)
- Başkentray (Ankara)
- International Trains gives details of services to Bucharest and Sofia.
There is no longer an official printed timetable in Turkey. Usually, train departures (and sometimes arrivals) are shown on station boards with the terminating station and the train name often being the only information. Intermediate timings etc. are frequently not given. Timetables change irregularly and without prior notice to the public but, as the timetable structure is fairly static, they at least give an indication of service frequency. The only exception is international traffic between İstanbul and Bulgaria, where timetables appear to change in line with European practice, to which BDŽ adheres. The standard symbols indicating days of operation (such as crossed hammers for Mondays to Saturdays) are not used; days are shown by abbreviations of the Turkish names.
A very informative list and map of the times and expected duration of route closures in 2014 is available on the "Rail Turkey" website.
- "World Rail Atlas Vol. 8 The Middle East and Caucasus" by Neil Robinson (ISBN-10: 954-12-0128-8; ISBN-13: 978-954-12-0128-2)
- European Railway Atlas by M.G. Ball (2008 onwards)
- An excellent map of the TCDD network is available on the TCDD website. It gives distances for each location but is somewhat out of date and does not show all triangles clearly.
- Thorsten Büker's Map of Turkey. Although this remains on-line, the Büker maps are no longer being maintained. Last update August 2011.
- A useful series of maps at various dates and enlargements are available on the Trains of Turkey website.
- Maps and Plans - Turkey
The new Turkish Railways reservation system became operational on 1 February 2014. The system will book most long distance domestic trains within Turkey, including seats, couchettes and sleepers. You print out your reservation details and pick up the tickets in Turkey. The best guide on how to do this is on the Man in Seat 61 site > How to buy tickets. Note that sleepers and couchettes must be reserved in advance; they cannot be acquired on the train even if spare berths are available.
TCDD no longer offers a network ticket. Balkan Flexipass and Interrail tickets continue to be valid.
Under new legislation passed in April 2013, TCDD is now the infrastructure manager.
The following lines are electrified: All high speed lines; İstanbul to Kapıkule; İstanbul to Ankara; Ankara suburban lines; Adana/İskenderun - Toprakkale - Fevzipaşa - Malatya - Çetinkaya - Divriği, İzmir suburban lines (Aliağa - Menderes).
The following lines are being electrified: Kayseri - Ulukisla - Yenice; Adana - Mersin.
Rule of the road
Right. However 95% of the network is single track.
No source known.
Adana, Ankara, Antalya, Bursa, Eskişehir, Gaziantep, İstanbul, İzmir, Kayseri, Konya, Samsun.
All standard gauge except Eskişehir, which is metre gauge.
Recent and future changes
Delivery of the rolling stock for the passenger service over the new (Kars -) Mezra - Akhalkalaki (- Marabda - Tbilisi (Georgia)) line will start only in March 2019, so the planned introduction date of late 2018 cannot be met.
İstanbul Haydarpaşa is expected to reopen around the same time as the extension of Marmaray services to Halkali in early 2019.
Tenders have been submitted for refurbishment of Istanbul Sirkeci - Kazlıçeşme; work was expected to start soon as at July 2018. A short single track section will connect with the Marmaray system at Kazlıçeşme where a third platform will be built. The original alignment to Sirkeci will be restored and all former stations refurbished, although three of them will be relocated somewhat.
Istanbul Metro Line M7, on the European side, is under constuction. Kabatas-Besiktas - Mahumtbey (24.5 km) is due to open in 2018, followed by an 18.5 km extension to Esenyurt in 2020.
The combined road/rail Yavuz Sultan Selim Bridge, at the eastern end of the Bosphorus between Garipçe on the European side and Poyrazköy on the Asiatic side, was opened to road traffic on 26 August 2016. This provides a bypass round Istanbul for through traffic. However, although a double track railway line is provided, there is no railway on either side. No tender has even been invited yet for the Gebze Halkalı Hızlı Tren Hattı Güzergahı line between Halkalı on the European side and Gebze on the Asiatic side, so the target commissioning date of 2018 is completely unrealistic.
Tracklaying started on the 253 km Yerkoy - Sivas section of the 405 km high-speed line between Ankara and Sivas in March 2018. A contract for construction of the Kirikkale - Yerkoy section was awarded in January 2016.
Plans for a 606 km high speed line from Izmir to Ankara have been approved. The line will pass though Afyon and meet the Ankara - Istanbul line near Polatlı. It was originally planned to be finished by 2013 but works are now expected to start in 2019.
Plans for a Mustafakemalpaşa (off the Balikesir-Bandirma line) – Bursa – Bilecik link, a conventional 160/200 km/h passenger/freight line, have been revived and this project will probably be put out for tender.
A new 17 km east-west cutoff is under construction between Bahce (Osmaniye province) and Nurdag (Gaziantep province) in southern Turkey. This will avoid the junction of Fevzipasa. It includes the longest tunnel in Turkey (10 km) on which boring has started, expected to be complete in 2019; trains may start in 2023. Fevzipasa will lose its importance and indeed might well close altogether as its only use would be for trains to Syria.
A number of lines have no passenger trains although services may resume in the future:
- Narli - Gaziantep: understood to be closed for engineering work. The Toros Ekspresi is not running at present.
- Irmak - Çankiri - Karabük: engineering work is ongoing while the line is used for freight. However, it is unlikely to reopen to passenger traffic.
The Van - Tabriz (Iran) service resumed on 18 June, having been suspended since July 2015.
Following reopening of the 'classic' line through Ankara, services to Kars, Kurtalan and Tatvan started running from Ankara on 4 June. The service to Izmir is planned to resume in mid November and those to Malatya and Adana in mid December.
A diesel hauled test train ran between Halkalı and Kazlıçeşme, the present terminus of the Marmaray (Istanbul suburban) line on the European side, on May 23.
The Başkentray (Ankara suburban) service started on 13 April, reopening the 'classic' line through Ankara closed in 2016
The Usküdar - Yamanevler section of Istanbul Metro line M5 (its first driverless metro line) opened on 16 December. Yamanevler - Cekmekoy is expected to open in mid-2018.
The new 105 km (Kars -) Mezra - Akhalkalaki (- Marabda - Tbilisi (Georgia)) line was ceremonially opened on 30 October 2017. Freight services started the following day and passenger services will follow.
Surface works on the Asian and European sides of Istanbul’s Marmaray suburban corridor reportedly resumed at the end of January following an agreement between lead contractor OHL and the government. Upgrading of the approach routes to create a 77 km high-capacity corridor between Halkali on the European side and Gebze in Anatolia has been subject to considerable delay. The revised completion date for the work is now 31 December 2018.
The Kütahya - Balikesir line was reopened on 1 September after a lengthy closure for engineering work.
All services on the 'classic' line through Ankara, between Irmak (60 km east of Ankara) and Eskişehir, ceased from 11 July for engineering works on the Başkentray project, the Ankara suburban service. High speed services to/from the west were not affected.
On 15 February the recently reinstated services between Çerkezköy and Kapikule / Uzunköprü were suspended. However, they were reinstated between Kapikule and Halkali on 25 July, thus reopening Çerkezköy - Halkali.
On 20 October the main line west of Istanbul was reopened between Çerkezköy and Kapikule (Bulgarian border) and between Pehlivanköy and Uzunköprü (Greek border). The line between Çerkezköy and Kazlıçeşme (end of the Marmaray line) remained without a passenger service.
All services to and from Iran (the Trans-Asya Ekspresi (Ankara - Tehran) and the Van - Tabriz train) were suspended in July 2015.
Sivas to Samsun closed for a period of 2 years from April for rebuilding.
The Afyon A. Çetinkaya - Karakuyu - Goncali (- Izmir) line reopened to traffic on 19 January after being closed for approximately five years for engineering work. This included the introduction of services over the Goncali avoiding curve, constructed between 2007 and 2010.
On the Elazig - Muş (- Tatvan) line, a 27 km new alignment between Beyhan (km 113) and Hodan (km 140) opened in the second week of January; the old line was closed on 15 December 2014. A further alignment, at least 30 km long, is under construction further east, from east of Dik (km 173) to approximately km 208 (near Yenibasak). This is all part of the new 114 km Palu - Genc - Muş line, on which construction started in December 2011.
All traffic east of Karkamis (to Nusaybin) was withdrawn at the end of September as it was too dangerous to run trains on the line. The line is not expected to open until the Syrian conflict has ended.
The much delayed 511 km high speed line between Eskişehir and Pendik, east of İstanbul, was ceremonially opened on 25 July, with public services commencing the following day. This utilises the 15km section avoiding İzmit city centre (operational since August 1999). On 17 November TCDD announced that local services between Pendik and Arifiye would resume "before the end of 2014."
The very tortuous old alignment between Tecer and Kangal was expected to fall out of use but continued in use by one local mixed train each way until new trains were introduced via the new main line from 23 February. However, the local mixed train was reinstated from 18 March, reopening the old line to passenger traffic.
The Bosphorus crossing (Marmaray project), connecting the European and Asian networks, was ceremonially opened on 29 October. It comprises a 13.6 km double track tunnel from Yenikapı to Haydarpaşa, including a 1.4 km immersed-tube tunnel (the world's deepest), and also modernisation of the Sirkeci - Halkali and Haydarpaşa - Gebze suburban lines. The tunnel was completed on the 23 September 2008. Completion of the entire project had been repeatedly delayed, largely due to the discovery of a Byzantine-era archaeological find on the proposed site of the European tunnel terminal in 2005. On 19 June the last trains from İstanbul Haydarpaşa, suburban services to Pendik, were withdrawn.
Passenger services between Gaziantep and Nusaybin had been withdrawn by May 2013, supposedly because of engineering work.
On 1 March Halkali - Yedikule was closed for construction work, putting an end to international services to İstanbul Sirkeci. Suburban services between Sirkeci and Yedikule continued to run until they were indefinitely suspended from 19 March.
A cut-off between Tecer and Kangal, south east of Sivas, opened probably in September - 39 years after the project started. It incorporates the 5367 m Deliktaş tunnel, the longest in Turkey.
On 19 March, the İstanbul - Kapikule line between Çerkezköy and Pehlivanköy was closed for engineering work from 07:00 - 19:00 each day Monday - Thursday. The line was open to traffic all day Friday - Sunday but the Bosphorus Express was replaced by buses between İstanbul Serkeci and Kapikule every day of the week.
The line between Pendik (25 km from Haydarpaşa) and Gebze closed on 29 April.
The main line from İstanbul Haydarpaşa closed completely on 1 February between Gebze (45 km from Haydarpaşa) and İzmit. All long-distance services were either cancelled or curtailed. The overnight services between Haydarpaşa and Ankara/Konya were withdrawn. Services to/from Adana and Eskişehir ran to and from Arifiye in lieu of Haydarpaşa. All long distance services to and from the East were withdrawn between Haydarpaşa and Anakara. There were no road replacement services between Arifiye and Haydarpaşa, although suburban services continued between Haydarpaşa and Gebze, a line isolated from the rest of the system.
Services on the 32 km line between Muratli (about half way between Erdine and Istanbul) and Tekirdag on the Sea of Marmara, opened as recently as 1 September 2010, were withdrawn from 22 December owing to lack of patronage.
The 112 km high speed line from Polatlı, on the Ankara - İstanbul line, to Konya opened to public traffic on 24 August.
Ankara suburban services (Sincan - Ankara - Kayas) were withdrawn on 1 August owing to construction of the new high speed line into Ankara from the west. All long-distance trains therefore used the suburban tracks between Ankara and Sincan.
The first stage of the 533 km İstanbul - Ankara high speed line, signalled to ETCS level 1 and with a design speed of 250 km/h, was opened to public traffic on 14 March between Sincan and Inönü, west of Eskişehir.
Many trains run every day of the week but some Ekspresi (Express) services run only every other day. Suburban services are usually subject to a different weekend schedule.
Trains can be very crowded. For all main line express trains, especially during weekends and during the school holiday period July - September, reservations are recommended. For express services on the main routes, each station served has a fixed allocation of tickets and no more are normally sold once this is exhausted. Reserved seats are not marked as such.
Punctuality of long distance trains is often low, and with the exception of a few dedicated connecting services, trains would usually not wait for possible late running feeder services. The operational practice appears to be that a train - once running late - has a lower priority than other trains still on time.
Electronic visas must be obtained in advance by means of the e-Visa Application system.
Turkey is relatively unusual in operating an internal train ferry service (freight only). The train ferry across the Bosphorus between the Istanbul stations of Sirkeci and Haydarpasa was withdrawn when rail access to these termini ceased. A ferry now operates between Tekirdag, about 100 km west of Istanbul and served by a branch from Muratli, and Derince, about 60 km south east of Istanbul, near Gebze. It has 5 rail tracks with a combined length of 800 m and can carry 58 normal length wagons. The voyage takes 8 hours, and loading and unloading each take 2 hours. This provides the only rail access between Europe and Asiatic Turkey.
Useful Words & Phrases
A few useful words & phrases related to rail travel, as phrase books etc may well not give these:
2+2 Pullman and 2+1 Pullman = seats with either 2+2 or 2+1 seating density across the width of the car.
YATAKLI = sleeping-car. On the plan, üst = upper berth, alt = lower berth. If you book 1 person, you get a whole 2-berth compartment.
Örtülü kuşetli = 4-berth couchettes. If you book 1 person, you get 1 berth in a shared compartment.
YHT = high speed train.
Tam = adult rate
çocuk = child rate = children under 12. Under 8s go free, 12 & over pay the youth fare.
genç = youth fare for anyone under 26 = 20% discount.
60-64 yaş = senior fare, 50% discount for anyone 60-64.
65 yaş = senior fare, 50% discount for anyone over 65.
Satış Sözleşmesini Okudum ve Kabul Ediyorum = "I have read & agree to the terms & conditions."