Electric locomotives at, Odessa station, Ukraine. PPhoto: Wikimedia Commoms

Lithuania-Ukraine seal rail cooperation

Electric locomotives at, Odessa station, Ukraine. PPhoto: Wikimedia Commoms

Lithuania and Ukraine have signed a Memorandum of Intent to develop their transport and logistics sectors together. The agreement concerns all modes of transport. However, rail seems to be the primary driver of their cooperation. Freight transportation between the two countries dropped by 27 per cent during 2020. Consequently, they want to reconcile the losses by implementing new ideas and introducing new services.

“Lithuania and Ukraine are bound by long-term cooperation relationships”, commented Marius Skuodis, Lithuanian Minister of Transport and Communications. According to Skuodis, Lithuania can provide Ukraine with its experience and knowledge on transport issues. The Baltic country recently reformed its railway transport sector and is, thus, ready to guide Ukraine according to the EU legal system.

On his behalf, the Ukrainian Minister of Infrastructure, Vladislav Krykliy, mentioned that Lithuania has always been a reliable partner of his country. Moreover, he underlined that their common primary goal is to increase container traffic volumes and liberalise bilateral or transit road transport between the two countries further.

Klaipeda -Odesa

The joint developments concerning rail transportation rely on three fundamental axes: firstly, Lithuania and Ukraine want to launch a semi-trailer service between their two biggest ports, Klaipeda and Odesa. To succeed in this, the two countries agreed that it would be wise to use the EU’s simplified customs procedures. This means that the new Ukrainian law on intermodal transport will include provisions specifying that semi-trailers are considered containers and not vehicles. Lithuania has already adopted similar laws.

The specific plan is quite interesting from two different perspectives. On the one hand, the port of Klaipeda will manage to attract more traffic and somehow make up for the losses that the diversion of Belarusian cargo caused at the beginning of the year. On the other hand, an intermodal corridor between Odesa and Klaipeda resembles another project that wants to connect Gdansk with Odesa-that of the Black Sea to Baltic corridor. Both states have declared that they want to use each other’s ports as gateways from south to north and vice versa. Consequently, there is a possibility for another Black Sea to Baltic intermodal route in the very near future.

Viking and Containerships trains

Moreover, the second axle or rail development concerns two preexisting services known as ‘Viking’ and ‘Containerships’ trains. Both of them connect Klaipeda and Odesa ports-the ‘Viking’ started before 2010, while the ‘Containerships’ train began in 2019.

The two countries now want to invest more in improving the freight transport conditions of these two services and increase competition in the North-South corridor.

Viking train route-Source Lithuanian Railways

Four countries service

Finally, the third axle concerns further communication on developing an extra rail service connecting four different capitals: Kyiv, Minsk, Vilnius and Riga. However, this plan is still in a very initial stage due to the epidemiological situation.

The intention is there, but actual implementation and processing of the project will start taking place after Europe and rail transport returns to normal levels, meaning after the relaxation of strict measures and the end of quarantine.

Locomotive service and repair centre

At the end of 2020, freight transportation company LTG Cargo, owned by Lithuanian Railways, established a Ukrainian branch to “explore various partnerships, create value and contribute to the promotion of rail as a mode of transport”. Of course, LTG saw opportunities for closer cooperation with the Ukrainian Railways. “We expect a gradual development of the operations of LTG Cargo Ukraine: in the first stage of development, LTG Cargo Ukraine will offer rental opportunities for rolling stock, forwarding and other freight transportation services”, commented Martynas Burba, Communications Project Manager at Lithuanian Railways.

Currently, the cargo branch of Lithuanian Railways is planning to establish a common locomotive service and repair centre in Ukraine, enriching and strengthening relations between the two countries even more. If such a plan becomes a reality, then it would seal their cooperation officially. Nevertheless, it has a more long-term perspective that could take some more time until its implementation.

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Author: Nikos Papatolios

Nikos Papatolios is editor of RailFreight.com, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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