Turkiye’s Ministry of Transport has authorised the construction of a 286km electric railway network, which will connect major cities through a high-speed, low-carbon route.
Trains will run at speeds of up to 200 kilometres per hour, reducing travel time from Gaziantep to Mersin from six hours to two hours. Gazientep is a city of around two million people, including a sizeable Kurdish minority. Mersin, on the Mediterranean coast, is the second largest container port in Turkiye and has a population of one million.
The new railway aims to boost southern Turkiye’s economy, contribute to sustainability and improve international relations and the volume of export between Turkiye and the UK.
Turkiye aims to extend its high-speed railway coverage to 10,000km. This project, which covers a distance greater than that between Cardiff and London, will contribute towards that. It will also connect airports, ports, and industrial zones in the hinterlands, including major cities such as Adana and Gaziantep, and larger cities in Southeastern Anatolia including Hatay, Diyarbakır,and Şanlıurfa, and also Central Anatolia.
The electric railway will replace the current diesel locomotive-operated railway, significantly reducing carbon emissions for travel between Mersin and Gaziantep. Estimates suggest that when completed, the route will save 157,000 tonnes in CO2e emissions in its first year. By reducing travel time and increasing railway use, it will also alleviate traffic congestion and road accidents.
The project is part of reconstruction efforts following the devastating earthquakes that struck Turkiye six months ago in February 2023. The railway will contribute to the rebuilding of Gaziantep, Osmaniye and other areas impacted by the disaster
The UK government’s is financing the project through its export credit agency, UK Export Finance (UKEF), which has underwritten €781m (£680m equivalent), eighty-five per cent of the €923 million total project financing. The loan was provided by global financial institutions including JP Morgan, ING, and BNP Paribas. Italian and Austrian export credit agencies, SACE and OeKB, are also involved in financing the project, providing reinsurance to secure the project for Turkish rail infrastructure.
Project development and construction group Rönesans Holding is involved in the project to build the railway, having also played a role in earthquake relief work. The group has a presence in over thirty companies and has worked with bodies such as the Government of Singapore Investment Corporation (GIC), Paris-based infrastructure fund Meridiam, Japanese trading house Sojitz Corporation, and International Finance Corporation (IFC) and Samsung CT.
UK Export Finance’s support for the railway project has made it possible for Rönesans to bid for more commercial opportunities. It is already discussing contracts for components, including mechanical and signalling equipment, as well as consultancy service. Rönesans Holding believes that it is well-placed to work on a rail infrastructure project in an area that is prone to earthquakes.
Dr. Erman Ilıcak, President of Rönesans Holding, expressed his enthusiasm for the project, stating, “This railway line is a hugely exciting development for southern Turkiye and will also see Rönesans strengthen its relationships with key UK suppliers. We are delighted to be appointed to the project, and to work together with such prolific UK businesses to bring this high-speed electrified railway to life. This truly collaborative project will not only enhance our relationship with UK exporters, it will also revolutionise rail links in Turkiye, significantly enhancing the region’s industrial connectivity and trade while actively reducing negative environmental impact.”