Marmaray achievements marked at Eurasiarail

Turkey’s growing importance in the European and Asian rail networks is being marked on March 6-8 at the Eurasiarail exhibition in Istanbul. Such is the confidence in the region that more than 300 exhibitors from 25 countries are set to showcase their products and services, backed by what is set to be a fascinating conference programme.

The first train through the Marmaray Tunnel in Istanbul ran in August 2013. The achievements of this project will be amongst the centrepieces at Eurasiarail.

The first train through the Marmaray Tunnel in Istanbul ran in August 2013. The achievements of this project will be amongst the centrepieces at Eurasiarail.

The presence of companies as significant as intelligentsignalling.com sponsor Siemens, Bombardier, Alstom, Talgo, Thales, Vossloh, Ansaldo and Wabtec highlights the tremendous growth in the capability and capacity of Turkey’s rail network, and the opportunities for through traffic from Europe to the Middle East and Asia by rail.

Not surprisingly, Turkey’s impressive Marmaray Project is the hot topic on the conference agenda, with a host of speakers from Turkish State Railways (TCDD) and other organisations dicussing the challenges and achievements of this massive piece of infrastructure. Other topics will see VUZ highlight the capabililties of its test track at Velim, Czech Republic, developments on Kosovo’s resurgent rail network, and the latest insights into signalling and train control and rolling stock.

With less than a week to go before the exhibition opens, it looks certain to be another success and a showcase for Turkey’s rail developments.

Marmaray Project opens

Turkey’s 13km, USD 4.6billion Marmaray Project opened for revenue earning service today after a huge construction programme which links both sides of the Straits of Bosphorus for the first time by rail.

With an extensive high-speed rail network well under way, journey times between Turkey’s capital, Ankara, and Istanbul are set to be cut by up to three hours. Initially however, it will be commuters who derive most benefit from the Marmaray Project, with journey times from the European to the Asian half of Istanbul slashed while long-distance passengers will have to wait until 2015 before through trains begin operation.

The signalling is a genuine world first – Communications Based Train Control with automatic operation for commuter services, with long distance passenger and freight trains set to run under ETCS Level 1. The technology – installed by Invensys Rail (now Siemens) is also in operation on Istanbul’s metro.

Commuter trains will run at around two-minute intervals at peak times, with capacity expected to be 75,000 passengers per hour.

All eyes on Turkey as Marmaray Project nears completion

With the first train having passed through Turkey’s Marmaray Tunnel earlier this month, attention is now focussing on the commissioning, and particularly that of the signalling, which uses Communications Based Train Control for commuter trains and European Train Control System for longer distance trains, particularly freight.

The first train through the Marmaray Tunnel in Istanbul ran in August 2013.

The first train through the Marmaray Tunnel in Istanbul ran in August 2013.

Whether the commissioning goes well or badly major lessons will be learned, and they will be of relevance all over the world. Successful commissioning and operations will show that mixed mode operations can offer a much greater benefit to cost ratio than single schemes for either metro or main line trains; problematic commissioning will ensure that future projects don’t suffer the same issues.

It is going to be a hugely demanding process in signalling terms but the plans have always appeared well considered, the technology is proven and reliable, and the benefits vast. For the signalling sector at least, Turkey is perhaps the most important country in the world at the moment.

August start for Marmaray testing

The first operational tests of Turkey’s Marmaray Project, which links the Asian and European sides of Istanbul, are set to begin next month, with the dual CBTC/ETCS signalling set to come under particular scrutiny.

Turkish State Railways (TCDD) plans to run high-intensity commuter trains through the 13km tunnel in CBTC mode, with maintenance vehicles and later high-speed and freight trains running under ETCS. While some railways – such as London’s Crossrail – will swap from ETCS to a CBTC system in places, the Marmaray Project is the first in the world to operate both simultaneously.