The Status and Future of Rail System Sector During Covid-19 Outbreak Period-Dr.İlhami Pektaş

Covid-19 epidemic, which has recently influenced the world and brought social and economic life to a standstill, has significantly changed our lifestyle, ways of doing business and habits. While this change has had a positive effect on some sectors, it has also caused a negative separation for some sectors. Transportation, Travel and Tourism sectors recessed. Industrial production and exports decreased. In addition to this, internet, distance education and work, e-commerce, food products sales increased significantly. While the product sales in the food products, health products, defense industry products and cleaning materials sectors increased rapidly, the production of automotive, rail systems, machinery and parts, shoes and clothing products came to the point of recession. Shopping malls, restaurants, sports centers, cafes, hotels, holiday and entertainment centers, hairdressers, etc. a large number of businesses have closed for a long time.

In the impact index prepared by taking into account the personnel, operations, supply chain and revenues in the 11 main sectors, at the top of the sectors that are severely affected are manufacturing, travel and transportation.

The restrictions on travels have serious consequences for the global economy in the future. In addition to all the delayed exhibitions, events and conferences, hundreds of thousands of business trips and meetings have been postponed to uncertain dates or cancelled.

The companies not prepared for the recently popularized e-commerce have experienced problems in the order follow-up and delivery periods due to the high demand. We have observed that companies that have fully digitalized their order and delivery processes by using their previous experiences have been more successful in this period.

Both the contraction in demand and the interruption of the production of many companies caused the companies to experience difficulties in terms of their financial situation and balance sheets. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) lowered 2020 growth forecasts for all economies. While global production was about $ 86.5 trillion in 2019, it is predicted that after COVID-19, this figure will decrease in a rate that will affect the economy, and the recovery period may reach 1 year.

We face an economic crisis at the global level as a result of the sudden contraction of many economic activities and supply chain breaking as a result of Covid-19 measures. It is now well understood that this pandemic and crisis condition are not like the previous crises. In previous crises, the sectors used to do the business and not receive their money or have financial crisis for not being able to export. In the previous crises, exporters managed to survive, while those who could not export faced the danger of closure. However, in this period, production and exports decreased in most of the sectors and came to a halt in some sectors, as a different process was experienced due to pandemic restrictions all over the world.

Obviously, from now on, nothing will be the same anymore and the effect of this pandemic will continue for a long time.

The current situation of the rail system sector in our country

Within the scope of the fight against the virus, a series of measures were taken and implemented by our state that would affect our lives and habits in public transportation. With the decision of the Provincial Pandemic Board, the maximum number of passengers in public transportation vehicles with a capacity of 100 passengers has been limited to 25% and the number of trips has been increased. This situation has adversely affected our public transportation operators, who provide their expenses with passenger transportation income, and their revenues have decreased by 80-90% compared to previous years. High-speed trains, planes, metros, trams and buses have come to a halt, both intercity and international, due to travel restrictions.

This pandemic has affected the public transportation and rail transportation system, as in all sectors, and caused a great change. Suggestions for protection area, distance and stay away from crowds have reduced the number of people in transportation and increased the frequency of transportation. These habits seem to continue for a long time after the pandemic. Consequently, the sources of income have decreased greatly in both private and public and municipal enterprises, and loss in public transport services has become inevitable. There is no permanent solution yet on how these losses will be covered and how they will be financed.

In this period, the Chinese companies won the tenders of 210 million Euro worth 176 metro vehicles for Istanbul Airport and the 1.2 billion Euro worth Konya metro line including vehicles. In these purchases, 60% domestic contribution condition was applied. A 15% domestic advantage and 60% domestic contribution condition have been included in the metro tender of 7 sets of 28 vehicles in Gebze-Darıca metro line. A 60% domestic contribution and 15% domestic advantage will be applied in the purchase tenders of 4 sets of 20 LRV to operate in Bursa, 10 tram vehicles to operate in Kocaeli and 4th stage 10 tram vehicles to operate in Kayseri.

Although the domestic contribution condition is not clear in the tender specifications for the supply and operation of 8 Electric Train Sets ( 32 wagons) in Gaziantep/ Gaziray Commuter Rail Operation, the 5th phase 5.4-km-long line and 8 trams for Kayseri, the 13.5-kilometer-long line for Buca, 11 stations and 16 sets (96 wagons) metro vehicles purchase, Ankara Dikimevi-Nato road, the 7.4-kilometer-long line and 8 stations and 39 LRV; within the scope of the Prime Ministry circular published in 2017, we expect the compliance with minimum 51 % domestic contribution condition and implementation of SIP by the Ministry of Industry and Technology.

The Construction and Electromechanical Systems supply, assembly, commissioning and procurement of metro vehicles of The Mersin TCDD Terminal-Mezitli LRT Metro Line, which was planned to be carried out in Mersin and expected to be worth 350 million Euros have been cancelled by KIK.

Employees of a foreign company, who did the signaling work of the Kabataş-Mahmutbey Metro project, left the job due to the coronavirus and returned to their country, and the project was left unfinished. This once again has showed how important the Domestic and National Industry is. This situation experienced in the construction of the subway today, can be experienced in all foreign-dependent works tomorrow.

ASELSAN, one of the companies that has worked in rail systems during this period, has made an agreement to use the new generation national signaling system it developed in Gayrettepe-Istanbul Airport Metro Line. The line, which has a length of 37 kilometers and a total of 9 stations, is planned to pass through Istanbul Airport-Halkalı, then through the 3-storey Bosporus tunnel, and connect to Sabiha Gökçen Airport.

Our member Bozankaya has won the tender opened by the Municipality of Antalya for 15 Tram Vehicles and Spare Parts, having a total cost of 210 million TL. Bozankaya will manufacture national brand trams for Antalya.

During this period, Bozankaya and Durmazlar have focused on the orders of 52 trams and 100 trolleybuses they received from Romania and Poland.

In addition to rail and wheel productions, Kardemir has started producing special steel rods, springs and rail fasteners for automotive and rail systems.  Aspilsan has produced and certified domestic and national Rail System Batteries for the first time in our country and started using them in rail systems. Albayrak has started to export domestic platform separator door systems for Belarusian metro operation. Savronik has won 2 tenders in India. The company’s work on the national signaling projects and the rail circuits continues within the country. ERA Elektronik continues to carry out the lighting projects received from Siemens Mobility and Man. Bias Automotive has started to provide test services for rail systems at the Rail System Test Center the company established. It is planned to start the construction of test roads by the end of 2020 for Uraysim Project. The subsidiary companies of TCDD, Tülomsaş, Tüvasaş and Tüdemsaş have been merged and established TÜRASAŞ in Ankara. Rail Transportation Technologies Institute, RUTE has started activities. Tülomsaş has developed a traction system and produced two national shunting locomotives for Kardemir. Tüvasaş has started High Speed Train tests. Tüdemsaş continues to deliver wagons to the American company, Gatx. Yapıray’s Kayaş-Yerköy-Sivas high speed train line and Gayrettepe-İkitelli-Kirazlı- Airport metro line works were continued as planned. Yapıray has exported reinforced concrete slab to Bulgaria, switch sleepers to Ethiopia, Senegal and Tanzania, while Medel exports converters to the Spanish company CAF. Municipal infrastructure works of Atalar Makine in Samsun, İstanbul Kağıthane and Eskişehir were continued.

In this period, some of our rail systems sector companies, which could not get the jobs they expected from domestic and international tenders, went downsizing. Due to the restrictions in import and export, the productions of some companies planned to be completed in time have been pended as the raw materials and semi-finished products could not be supplied and the exporter companies could not contact with the purchasers. Some of the companies, which turned this situation into an opportunity, have focused on the R & D, production of medical health products and rail system maintenance and repair during the stagnation. ARUS members Aselsan and Medel started to produce electronic respirators, Ilgaz Group manufactured mask machines, LMC Machine produced face masks, Atak Transportation manufactued masks, disinfectants and thermometers in the field of health. Yazkar has developed an air-conditioning filtration system that eliminates the virus with UVC rays in public transport air conditioners with R & D. This system developed against the virus in public transport is of great importance for public transport security. ASAŞ Aluminum has worked to meet the increasing aluminum profile demands in the healthcare industry (stretcher, ambulance, mobile healthcare vehicles, etc.). All these works have been carried out with work shifts by reducing the staff density and taking necessary precautions in accordance with the mask, distance and hygiene regulations for Covid-19.

Future of Rail Systems in Turkey

In the near future, digitalization, automation, security systems, battery and smart city traffic will come to the fore in rail systems. Rail system companies will move to new application areas for the purposes such as providing more information and services, improving asset control and automating more operations by using digital technologies. The noise problem on the railway will be greatly reduced. Passenger and freight transport in Turkey will increase substantially. The Silk Road trade to Europe will revive through Turkey. The efforts will be intensified so that the standard legal regulations in rail systems will be valid not only in European countries but also in all countries in the world. The efforts will also be intensified to make the domestic contribution rate in Turkey valid for not only vehicles but also all rail system infrastructures including signalization, electrification, elevator and escalators.

There is an important conclusion that the Covid-19 virus teaches us. During this period when no one can meet with anyone and no one can travel, increasing of restrictions and decreasing of exports; self-sufficient societies that can produce domestically in their own country will survive this process without any trouble. Societies that are not self-sufficient, unable to manufacture, and depend on imports will, unfortunately, close this process with a major economic crisis and social collapse. Here, consumers also have big duties. As consumers, the more domestic products we prefer in our shopping, our domestic producers will invest more in our country, the more our employment, the level of technology development and the level of competition with foreign companies will increase.

As a result, Turkish industry has the ability, capacity and potential to produce public transportation vehicles and rail systems with domestic and national facilities. As a self-sufficient industry in the rail systems sector, we no longer want to see imported products in our country, we would like to carry out all vehicle and infrastructure works with domestic and national facilities. This is the best opportunity for domestic and national production. If we fail to do this in this period, we will hardly get such an opportunity again.

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