INFORMATION is emerging about how rail services in Turkey and Syria have been affected following February 6’s 7.8-magnitude earthquake, which has left at least 5000 dead and caused devastation and destruction to buildings and structures.

In Syria, the north-west part of the country is worst affected, and all rail traffic has been suspended by the Transport Ministry. Although freight traffic has a minor role on Syria’s railways, daily passenger trains between the main cities are of importance to commuters, including services to Aleppo and Latakia which are among the worst affected.

In Turkey, the central-southern part of the country has been worst hit. It is believed that a total of 1275km of railway lines have been seriously affected by the earthquake in the Kahramanmaraş region of central Turkey, including damage to 446 bridges, 6161 culverts and 175 tunnels. Track has been left twisted and damaged, particularly on the Toprakkale - Narlı, Narlı - Malatya and Narlı - Gaziantep sections of the network, while 10 substations providing electric power for rail lines are out of action.

In addition, there are reports that part of the 25.5km Gaziray suburban commuter railway, which opened in November 2022, has collapsed.

Rail transport is proving to be very important to earthquake relief efforts. Turkish State Railways (TCDD) reports that trains carrying aid materials, construction equipment, electricity generators and shelters have been despatched from stations at Kocaeli and Afyonkarahisar to the regions impacted by the earthquake.

On February 7, a 20-wagon “Hope Train” departed from Kocaeli Köseköy to Adana, near the quake zone, which will provide transport and shelter for victims as well as equipment to support excavation and relief efforts.

Further construction equipment and aid materials were due to be loaded at Akşehir and Konya onto a 19-vehicle train departing from Afyonkarahisar Ali Çetinkaya station. The train consists of 12 passenger coaches, four loads of construction equipment and three loads of aid materials.

A TCDD earthquake relief train departing for the disaster zone. Photo credit: Twitter/TCDD

TCDD will offer Disaster Transfer Trains for people impacted on February 8, running from Iskenderun to Mersin via Osmaniye, Ceyhan, Adana, and Tarsus. The trains will depart at 09.00, 12.00, 15.00, 18.00, and 21.00 from both Iskenderun and Mersin. Trains have also been offered for victims from Malatya and Yazihan to Sivas and Ankara.

Meanwhile, railway station waiting rooms and passenger coaches at Adana, Mersin, Osmaniye, İskenderun, Diyarbakır, Elazığ and Malatya have been made available around the clock to meet the housing needs of residents displaced by the disaster. In total accommodation has been provided for 3400 people and an aid campaign has also been organised by TCDD management and employees.

Of additional concern for the transport sector is that fact that Turkey is an important hub on the international rail freight map, forming a southern branch of the Middle Corridor route connecting Asia with Europe. Turkish ports are also important for freight transported by rail for shipment to Europe. The earthquake has caused a huge fire among containers waiting on the dockside for shipment at the Turkish Mediterranean port of Iskenderun.