Turkey's geopolitical position as a link between the East and the West makes the transportation industry crucial for the economic development of the region. Turkey is a major player both as a transit country and as an origin and destination of freight. This is why goods traffic is not limited to trade between neighboring countries only, but also covers cargo traffic between countries located far from each other. Turkey is considered as a major cargo center with increasing trade between east and west. This makes Turkey an important place, where major transportation projects are organized.
The Customs Union agreement of Turkey with the EU which was established in 1996 and the application for the full EU membership are other reasons to force the transport industry to consider new investments in this industry. Transport is among the five major issues in Turkey’s EU accession agenda (macro stability, labor, agriculture and the environment are the others). Problems that need to be solved in the transport industry range from physical integration to the harmonization of infrastructure, vehicles, environmental and other standards, the development of logistic networks, the improvement of border crossings and trade facilitation policies (modernization of customs, etc.).
Turkey is falling behind other middle income developing countries in its effort to move away from a production-oriented sector to a sector responding to market needs. Most transport agencies: (a) are over-dimensioned; (b) have poor planning decisions, such as excessive priority given to large "political" projects at the expense of high return maintenance; and (c) have excessive fiscal burdens. There is a need to commercialize the delivery of transport infrastructure and services and bring an element of accountability and transparency to their performance.
Transport demand in Turkey has grown significantly over the past five decades. Overall, demand (as measured by passenger-kilometers and ton-kilometers) has grown at an annual rate of nearly 8% since 1950. Demand for road transport has grown at an annual rate of about 7.6% while rail transport demand has grown at about 2%, demand for water transport by 5% and air at over 16% per year. As in most developing countries, the rapid development of the automobile industry worldwide after the 1950s made Turkey focus on a single mode in transportation. This resulted in Turkey becoming 90% dependent on land transportation for both freight and passenger transport. However, the European transportation policy adopted by the European Commission requires the balancing of transportation modes by the year 2010. Additionally, the emphasis on strong foreign trade has caused sea-based transportation to increase.
By Berrin Erturk