Starting from the end of 2019, in 2020, the coronavirus epidemic affected the whole world. In order to prevent the epidemic in our country, changes had to be made in living conditions and working standards.
most strongly felt that in March-April-May in Turkey's foreign trade, the two major Middle East to EU countries, the impact of the epidemic and were exposed to restrictions in the Central Asian country, arrived to transport activities, halt, underwent quarantine our driver.
During the pandemic period, the operational problems experienced in the airway, road and seaway were tried to be eliminated by using the rail transportation alternative. Rail transport served as a savior, it was a good alternative to road and rail transport, enabling transporters to create new routes. Export shipments by rail, which was recommended as 'contactless trade' against the spread of the epidemic, increased by almost 100 percent in March. Wagons were insufficient on some lines. During the pandemic period, an additional 3 thousand 500 tons of capacity increase was achieved on the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars (BTK) line with the cessation of transit to Iran by road vehicles. It was shared with the public that, with the hygiene measures taken, human contactless transportation and the commercial activities carried out, international rail freight transport increased by 2020 percent in the first 7 months of 36 compared to the same period of the previous year, reaching 2 million 133 thousand tons.
There was even a pleasing development during the pandemic days. On May 8, 2020, the freight train carrying raw materials passed through Marmaray. The first domestic train departed from Gaziantep and reached Çorlu. The train weighing 1.200 tons consisted of 16 wagons. The most positive aspect of the transportation made in 32 containers was that the transportation was carried out without interruption.
According to the latest data announced by TCDD; Approximately 650 thousand tons of cargo has been transported since the opening of the BTK line, 320 thousand tons since January, and 20 thousand tons of cargo is expected to be transported with 500 thousand containers until the end of this year. On the BTK railway line, it is aimed to carry 3,2 million tons of freight in the medium term and 6,5 million tons in the long term.
Although rail transport assumed the role of rescuer in the period when the effects of the virus epidemic were felt most intensely, the interest in intermodal transportation decreased with the taking of normalization steps, the removal of restrictions and the return to the old order, however, due to the import-export imbalance, imports almost came to a halt. In imports, the extra costs for vehicles and containers rented for empty turns have put the companies in a difficult situation, but most importantly, the production of raw materials may also be affected at the end of this process. There is also concern that export shipments, which are observed to be on track at the moment, will be disrupted in this cycle.
At this point, I believe that it should be well understood how important railway transportation is. Because, unfortunately, the most underdeveloped, and even the only, mode of transportation in our country is rail transportation. And I would like to underline that it is the mode of transport that we most need today. However, although it seems that there was a great demand for the railway in the early stages of the pandemic, the sector found its starting point again on the highway, as the necessary investment was not made in this transport mode.
In our country, road-oriented transportation has been adopted, but in extraordinary situations such as coronavirus, we experienced that our transportation system came to a halt when restrictions and prohibitions came to the road. Rail transport was the least affected by the crisis and took the role of savior. The railway is in a very important position in terms of taking the heavy load on the highway because it is both a savior and the mode of transport with the least risk. It is necessary to focus much more on this area and to invest more by means of both the public and private sectors. Perhaps one of the most important factors in continuing our exports to the Middle East and the Caucasus, but also to South East Europe and Central Europe, may be the railway. At this point, it is of great importance that TCDD, one of the main and most important actors, establishes a cooperation model based on transparent, objective criteria, defined with sector stakeholders and business partners, transport business organizers.
View Emre's Full Profile
UTİKAD Chairman of the Board