Price hikes by the State Railways of the Republic of Turkey (TCDD) of up to 400 percent have stirred debate on social media.
The fee of high-speed monthly train membership between Ankara and its nearby Polatlı district has increased from 220 Turkish Liras ($37) to 877 liras ($148), with a raise of almost 250 percent, while the Ankara-Istanbul route now costs 3,847 liras ($647) instead of 2,100 liras ($353).
The fee of monthly membership for the high-speed train route between Ankara and the student-dense Eskişehir has seen a raise of almost 50 percent and now costs 687 liras ($116) instead of 480 liras ($81).
Transportation discounts will no longer be applied to business class tickets, the TCDD also noted.
Social media outcry
Following the price hikes, many passengers took to Twitter to protest the regulations and the hashtag “let’s not call it a raise” became trending.
Meanwhile, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Utku Çakırözer protested the raises by saying “Public servants’ wages get 5.5 percent raise, while the train tickets get 170 percent!”
CHP lawmaker Ali Haydar Hakverdi also tweeted about the price hike, calling it a “robbery.”
‘We didn’t raise prices‘
The TCDD addressed the social media response in a late-night Tweet and denied that there had been any price increases for monthly memberships of high-speed trains.
“There have been adjustments to the discounts made on membership cards,” the TCDD said in a tweet.
However, CHP lawmaker Hakverdi tweeted the day following the raises that there had in fact been raises to the memberships and that it’s “unbecoming of a public official to lie.”
“We spoke with a high-level official. You’re just going to say the TCDD is losing money and you’ll sell it!” Hakverdi said.
The Turkish government has often been criticized for privatizing public institutions such as the Postal Service and the Sugar Confectionery.
False claims circulated about the TCDD becoming privatized in mid-January but the company denied that they would be selling out.
Privatization and more raises in the future
Privatization bill no. 6441 from 2013 releases the TCDD of its duty to serve the public, said İsmail Özdemir, the Ankara branch chair of Turkey’s United Transportation Union (BTS).
“After this, they’re [the government] thinking of privatizing passenger transportation. They’re working on regulations and legislation for this,” Özdemir said.
According to Özdemir, the government’s plan to privatize the industry is the reason behind the price hikes.
“They started to implement price hikes so that [TCDD] won’t be at a loss when they transfer it over to the private sector. This is a step taken to favor the private sector’s benefit,” Özdemir said.