Ukrainian Railways signed memorandums with Polish State Railways and Deutsche Bahn. What does that mean?

4 October 2022, 07:06 PM
UZ is looking for new routes for the export of Ukrainian products (Photo:facebook UZ)

UZ is looking for new routes for the export of Ukrainian products (Photo:facebook UZ)

As Ukrainian Railways (UZ) is looking for partners to export Ukrainian products, the chairman of the board, Oleksandr Kamyshin, has signed two memorandums - one with the head of Polish State Railways (PKP) Group, Krzysztof Maminski, and the other with Deutsche Bahn head Richard Lutz.

There are many people at German rail operator Deutsche Bahn stand at the largest specialized exhibition in Europe, InnoTrans in Berlin. Richard Lutz, the head of Deutsche Bahn (DB) appeared in a blue jacket with a yellow butterfly— as a sign of support for Ukraine. Next to him was Oleksandr Kamyshin, the chairman of the board of the UZ, as well as representatives of the Ministry of Transport of Germany and the EU. All of them were present at the signing of a memorandum between UZ and DB. A day before, Kamyshin signed a similar contract together with the head of the Polish state company PKP Group. UZ is looking for partners who will help increase the export of Ukrainian products.

Video of day

What do the memorandums say?

The texts of the memorandums with the heads of two large European railway companies were not shown to the public. Before signing the documents, the representatives of the state-owned companies talked about the importance of cooperation and praised the Ukrainian railway workers for their resilience and stability in working during the war. PKP SA General Director Maminsky spoke about how his company allocated 2.3 million free tickets for Ukrainians to travel across Poland, and noted that since the second quarter of 2022, the volume of transportation on the Polish-Ukrainian railway border has been increasing – primarily meaning grain exports from Ukraine to EU countries. Maminsky didn’t hide the fact that there’s growing interest in the development of infrastructure Polish-Ukrainian border. Kamyshin confirmed that thanks to the cooperation with PKP SA, transport volumes were indeed increasing – but there is still a need to find the right vision for the future of European railways.

"It is important to keep in mind that the railway infrastructure of Poland and Ukraine is more than the 40,000 kilometers of tracks connecting the Black and Baltic seas," he said.

The meeting with DB’s management proved a greater draw for attendees – there was practically no room near the stand. Lutz spoke about how DB will help UZ expand freight corridors, increase terminal capacity, and implement European standards. Meanwhile, DB Cargo specialists will help develop and modernize freight corridors for transshipment between broad and narrow European routes, he said.

DB will continue working with UZ on the development of corporate governance structures, which is necessary for Ukraine to receive financial assistance for the country's recovery, supply UZ with spare parts, and possibly even freight wagons — though these would first need to be converted to travel on a wider railway track.

"Ukraine will continue to receive all the support we can offer when it comes to the areas under my control,” said German Federal Minister for Digital Technologies and Transport Volker Wissing.

“Such long-term civil partnerships that strengthen the country are an important factor during this decisive phase of the war and after it."

What's the point of these memorandums?

After the full-scale Russian invasion, Ukrainian farmers lost the ability to export their products by sea. Before the start of the war, about 5 million tons of grain were exported from Ukraine per month. One of the alternative options was the transportation of goods by railway, though Russia agreed to a partial lifting of its blockade against Ukrainian ports at the end of July. This allowed the country to export about 2.6 million tons of grain. In September, this indicator is even higher.

According to UZ, after the start of the war, the company produced about 3,000 carts, which allowed for moving freight cars onto a narrow gauge. The company reconstructed the Kovel-Yagodyn Eurotrack up to the border, increasing the volume and speed of cargo transportation. UZ electrified the track section of Kovel — Izów — State Border, with a length of 94 kilometers, which allows transport to pass faster through the border crossing Izów — Hrubeszów (Poland), while allowing for freight weights to increase from 4,600 tons to 5,500 tons. In addition, another checkpoint for Ukrainian agricultural products was opened on the Rava-Ruska-Verkhrat route. But these steps are not enough.

A UZ source, speaking to NV Business on conditions of anonymity, says that the Ukrainian state-owned company is looking for opportunities to transport Ukrainian grain faster to seaports in Eastern and Western Europe.

"The European market is liberal, many companies operate on this market, and it is not clear which of them to negotiate with for the delivery of goods along a certain route,” the UZ source said.

“That's why Ukrainian business needs a partner.”

They add that one of the options for the development of exports is the construction of a narrow-gauge railway to Lviv, which will turn the city into a hub for transporting goods to EU countries.

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Google News

Ukraine Today
Fresh daily newsletter covering the top headlines and developments in Ukraine
Daily at 9am EST
Show more news