Turkey - General Information
National Railway System
Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Devlet Demiryolları, which in translation means State Railways of the Republic of Turkey. The state railway is normally abbreviated as TCDD.
National Railway Operator
In 2016 TCDD's operating activities were transferred to a stand-alone business known as TCDD Taşımacılık AŞ.
In May 2013 railway liberalisation legislation came into force, enabling private operators - in theory at least - to run services. However on 8 April 2020 the regulations were amended to allow the provision of public support for the continued operation of rail services seen as socially desirable. The 61 routes/service groups cover the majority of routes run by TCDD Taşımacılık, other than a few services deemed ‘commercial'. The main exceptions are in the southeast: Toprakkale – İskenderun, Nizip – Mardin – Nusaybin (currently not operating), Van – Kapıköy (Iranian border) and Kars – Akyaka (– Doğakapı, on the closed border with Armenia).
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
- Domestic travel: A 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. 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 - Istanbul; Istanbul - Konya.
- 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, Sofia and Tabriz (Iran). It is necessary to scroll right down to the bottom of the page to find the Tabriz service.
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.
- European Railway Atlas (All-Europe Edition) by M.G. Ball.
- World Rail Atlas - The Middle East and Caucasus by Neil Robinson.
- A useful basic map is available on the Seat61 website.
- A very good detailed map is available on the TCDD website although it requires enlarging and is somewhat out of date.
- 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.
Sleeper and couchette tickets on the Ankara <> Tatvan (Vangölü Ekspresi) and Ankara <> Kars (Turistik Doğu Ekspresi - sleeping cars only) and (Dogu Ekspresi - couchettes only) are in high demand and hence difficult to obtain. They become available on line 30 days in advance and should be booked as soon as possible as they can sell out almost immediately.
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.
Standard. There appears to be some 1520 mm gauge track at Derince Liman (port) for the train ferry to Illichivs'k (Ukraine).
The following lines are electrified: All high speed lines; İstanbul - Kapıkule (Bulgarian border)/Uzunköprü (Greek border); Muratli - Tekirdağ; İstanbul - Eskişehir - Ankara ('classic' line), including the Adazapari branch; Ankara - Kayas; Eskişehir - Kutahya - Balikesir; İzmir suburban lines (Aliağa - Çamlık); Menemen - Balikesir - Bandirma; Konya - Karaman; Boğazköprü - Ulukisla - Yenice; Adana/İskenderun - Toprakkale - Fevzipaşa - Malatya - Çetinkaya - Divriği.
The following lines are being electrified: Kayas - Boğazköprü - Kayseri - Çetinkaya (via both Sivas and the avoiding line); Torbali - Tire/Ödemiş; Karaman - Ulukisla; Adana - Mersin.
Rule of the road
Right. However 95% of the non high speed network is single track.
The detailed map listed in the Web-based Maps section gives distances for each station.
Adana, Ankara, Bursa, İstanbul, Izmir.
Information on Istanbul Metro is at the Metro Istanbul site.
There are also projects for metros in Konya, Gebze-Darıca and Mersin.
Antalya, Bursa, Eskişehir, Gaziantep, İstanbul, İzmir, Kocaeli (Izmit), Kayseri, Konya, Samsun. All standard gauge except Eskişehir, which is metre gauge.
There is also a projected system in Afyon.
Recent and future changes
The Konya to Karaman section of the Konya – Ulukusla – Adana line has been out of service since probably 2014 for reconstruction of the old single track line as an electrified 2-track 200kph railway. It forms the first phase of a projected Konya – Adana – Gaziantep high speed line. Test runs started in late April 2021. Services were expected to start in June 2021, but this had not yet occurred as at September 2021.
The 508-km (Ankara –) Yenice – Izmir high-speed line was downgraded in the 2021 investment programme from “very high speed” (250 km/h) to “high standard railway” (200 km/h). Construction started in 2013. The first phase (Yenice – Afyonkarahisar) is planned to open in 2022 but that is unlikely to be achieved. The second phase (Afyonkarahisar – Usak – Manisa – Menemen) has a target of 2023! It seems likely that some of the line will use the existing formation in some parts.
Test running started on the Balışeyh (east of Kırıkkale) - Sivas section of the 406 km Ankara – Kırıkkale - Sivas high-speed line in early 2021. Public services were expected to start in the third quarter of 2021 but reconstruction of the 'classic' route through Sivas was still in progress as at July 2021. It was suggested it might be inaugurated on 4 September 2021, but this had to be postponed. It appears that some of the bridge earthworks have collapsed and one of the sub-contractors is bankrupt. It is therefore clear that it will not open for some time.
The Ankara - Baku train was expected to start running in late October 2019, resulting in the opening to passengers of the (Kars -) Mezra - Karakale TCDD - Kartsakhi RK - Akhalkalaki line. However, timings, fares and customs arrangements have not yet been agreed. In view of the pandemic, it is not known when it may start running.
The project to upgrade the 229 km Halkalı (western suburbs of İstanbul) - Kapıkule (Bulgarian border) line was officially launched on 3 October 2019. This will be mainly a new line but part is on the existing formation. Cerkezkoy – Kapikule is being funded by the EU. Halkali – Cerkezkoy will be funded by Turkey but no money had been allocated as at February 2021. However the planned ship canal connecting the Black Sea to the Sea of Marmara poses a threat to the railway. No indication has been given as to how the line would cross the canal: both a bridge over and tunnel under the canal would require lengthy new approaches to achieve a reasonable gradient.
İstanbul Haydarpaşa was expected to reopen around the same time as the full Marmaray extension in March 2019, but has been delayed for an unknown period by the discovery of substantial archaeological remains.
A new project was unveiled in September 2021 for rebuilding the 8km of line from Kazlicesme to İstanbul Sirkeci as single track, with a footpath and bike lane on the course of the other track. It was cut back in 2013 for construction of the cross-Bosphorus Marmaray line. It is planned to be commissioned in 2023 but this date should be viewed with caution. Efforts by Istanbul Municipality to take over the route and incorporate the line into the city’s metro and tram networks have been repeatedly rebuffed, so it could become a political football.
İstanbul Metro Line M7, on the European side, is under constuction. Kabatas-Besiktas - Mecidiyeköy and Mahumtbey - Esenyurt were still awaiting opening as at November 2020
The 37.4 km İstanbul M11 express Metro line, connecting the Gayrettepe financial district and the new İstanbul Airport, was planned to be complete about August 2021. As at November 2020, neither this line nor the other part, the 27 km İstanbul Airport – Halkali line had been completed.
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.
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 2021.
The 106 km Osmaneli - Yenişehir - Bursa high speed line is scheduled to be completed in 2023.
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.
Most of the 'classic' main line services withdrawn in March 2020 because of COVID resumed on 10 July. The exceptions were international trains to Bulgaria and Iran, and the Turistik Doğu Express.
A full high speed train service and most Regional trains (122 daily services on 20 routes) resumed on 17 May. However, 'classic' main line services were still suspended.
A limited service of high speed trains resumed on 1 March.
The first 9 km section of İstanbul LRT line T5, from Alibeyköy Cep to Cibali, was opened on 1 January.
The Mecidiyeköy - Mahmutbey section of İstanbul Metro line M7 was opened on 28 October.
A limited number of high speed services between Ankara and Istanbul or Konya started in May.
(Sivas -) Kalin - Samsun finally reopened to freight on 4 May. The long delay was caused by faults discovered in the construction work and new rules on level crossings coming into force. Passenger services may resume once the pandemic restrictions have ended, but probably not until reconstruction of the route through Sivas has been completed.
The Tekirdag - Derince train ferry was withdrawn in April, following the start of freight operation through the Marmaray tunnel earlier in the year.
All travel was suspended on either 14 or 28 March - sources differ.
Owing to the Coronavirus situation in Iran, the Transaysa Express (Ankara <=> Tehran) and the Van <=> Tabriz express were suspended in February. The Balkan Express (İstanbul Halkali <=> Sofia) was also suspended.
The once daily local passenger service over the (Sivas –) Tecer – Kangal – Temürün Köyü (– Çetinkaya) line, the former main line bypassed by the new 5367 m Deliktaş tunnel, was withdrawn from 8 December.
The overnight Göller Express between İzmir and Isparta started running on 25 October, thus reopening the 62km Karakuyu - Isparta branch to passengers.
A ceremony was held at Edirne on 25 September 2019 to mark the start of work on the Çerkezköy - Kapıkule section of the İstanbul Halkalı - Kapıkule high speed line.
The overnight Ankara Express between Ankara and İstanbul (Halkalı) restarted on 5 July 2019 having been discontinued on 1 February 2012. This caused the reopening to passengers of the 182 km 'classic' line between Eskişehir and Arifiye.
The Van - Tabriz (Iran) service was extended to and from Tehran with effect from 24 June, although this may have been merely a one-off experiment. Details are unclear as at late June.
Sivas station closed from 1 April owing to engineering work for the Ankara - Sivas high speed line. Through passenger services were diverted via the Hanli - Bostankaya freight-only line; see the Obscure Services page.
The Marmaray line between Halkali on the European side and Gebze in Anatolia opened on 13 March. This provides the first through rail communication between Europe and Asiatic Turkey. İstanbul Haydarpaşa terminus did not reopen at the same time.
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 resumed on 15 November. However, the Çukurova express to Adana did not resume; the Erciyes express between Kayseri and Adana, which had replaced it, continued running.
A diesel hauled test train ran between Halkalı and Kazlıçeşme, the present terminus of the Marmaray (Istanbul suburban) line on the European side, on 23 May.
The Başkentray (Ankara suburban) service started on 13 April, reopening the 'classic' line through Ankara closed in 2016. Ankara station was completely rebuilt and the former double track line widened as follows: Kayas - Ankara 4 tracks; Ankara - Behicbey 6 tracks; Behicbey - Sincan 5 tracks.
For details of older changes dating back to the year 2009 see Turkey - Older General Information.
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 across Lake Van in the east of the country, between Tatvan and Van. The train ferry across the Bosphorus between the Istanbul stations of Sirkeci and Haydarpasa was withdrawn when rail access to these termini ceased. The train ferry between Tekirdag, about 100 km west of Istanbul, and Derince, about 60 km south east of Istanbul, was established in 2013 as a substitute for the Bosphorus ferry. However it was withdrawn in April 2020.
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."