The railway has become the simplest and still the most effective means of overcoming the huge distances in Asia and delivering products from one point to another. Asia's fast-growing economies are making significant investments in overland, mass goods and passenger transport in order to ensure the countries' economic growth and trade. The countries of Asia, led by China, are making significant investments in the development of transport infrastructure and strategies that promote sustainable transport.
More and more experts believe that in the coming decades of the 21st century, the railway will be the most important, cost-effective and environmentally friendly driver of the economy in Asia, as a means of mass and fast transport of goods and passengers.
Accordingly, the role of railways in Asia has shown rapid development since 2011, especially between China and Europe and South-East Asia and the Middle East. At the initiative of Deutsche Bahn, the trade relationship between China and Europe developed rapidly and freight traffic increased significantly. However, it must also be recognised that the rail sector's share of the trans-Asian freight market remains low. According to estimates, in 2021, rail traffic on trade routes between China and Europe amounted to about 1.46 million containers with a total value of about 75 billion dollars, which represents about 4% of the total trade between China and the European Union.
Rail freight traffic within Asia and between Europe and Asia is also undergoing changes as a result of the established global power relations. The current situation in Asia has increased the value of the Central Trade Corridor spanning the Caspian Sea and the rail freight routes of this corridor. As a result, in the future Turkey may become one of the hubs of trans-Eurasian rail freight transport, which is strongly supported by the country's leadership.
Turkey is constantly making new infrastructure investments in the Kocaeli railway port. Meanwhile, the State Railways of the Republic of Turkey (TCDD) has completed the construction of the Kars Logistics Center, which is suitable for the coordination of railway lines with different gauges, on-site customs clearance and warehousing tasks.
Maersk, the world's largest trading company, recognised the potential of rail freight transport within Asia and started its own intercontinental rail service in 2017 and launched its first freight route between Hsian (China) and Izmit, Turkey in 2020. This was closely followed by the Xi'an-Prague flight via the Marmaray tunnel.The author is a researcher at the Eurasia Center of John von Neumann University.