Trains through Ukraine halted for construction works
Transit traffic through Ukraine has come to a halt due to construction works. Traffic through Ukraine to the Polish border has already been stopped with an official restriction convention, starting on 30 November. Starting 6 December, traffic to the Slovakian border will also be paused. This was confirmed by Ukrainian Railways.
According to the Ukrainian national railway company, the railway section Kovel-Izov on the Polish/Ukrainian border is undergoing electrification and upgrading works. Apart from that, the railway section from the central city of Znamianka to the western city of Zdolbuniv is undergoing track maintenance and modernisation works. Several trains have been rerouted, the industry reports.
As a direct result of these works, there is a reduced handling capacity of 350 wagons per day, which is not enough to guarantee the transit of all trains passing through Ukraine. Therefore, the company decided to temporarily ban freight trains on transit.
It is not yet clear until when these restrictions remain in place. As Timofey Murakhovskky from Ukrainian Railways explained: “We cannot estimate how long these construction works will take, therefore we cannot give an end date. It could be until the end of the year, but it is also possible that we finish a little earlier.”
The restrictions have led to uncertainty among operators, who do not know what to expect until now. Metrans, which operates regular trains through the country, has two trains currently on the way to Ukraine. “Of them will be at the border with Ukraine tomorrow or the day after, the other is expected in ten days”, said Martin Koubek, director Silk Road at the company.
“I cannot believe that these trains cannot pass through.” According to Murakhovskky , trains that had already departed at the time when the convention was issued may indeed pass. Thus, trains that departed in the direction of Poland before 30 November can make it to the border. For the Slovakia-bound trains, this date is 6 December. Trains to the border with Hungary are not restricted, this route is still accessible, the Ukrainian official added.
For all other trains, rerouting is the only option. RTSB has already rerouted its trains via Belarus and Kaliningrad. “We had several trains planned via these border stations”, said Aleksander Baskakov from RTSB in Moscow. According to Koubek, this is also what Metrans will do if passing through Ukraine won’t be possible. “We will go via Belarus”, he noted.
Growing appetite for Ukraine
There are three major border crossings between Poland and Ukraine: Izov, Mostyska II and Yahotyn. Among them, Mostyska 2 is the one with the most potential. Many companies have built terminals nearby. For example, Global Ocean Link (GOL) opened a new terminal at the end of last year to handle transit goods between China and Europe; Poland PKP Cargo is aiming to turn the Polish border city of Medyka into a “plus-sized Malaszewicze” en by the end of this year, N’Unit opens a new terminal in Mostyska.
All these terminals are not raised without precedent: transit through Ukraine has seen increased interest among operators as an alternative to the busy border crossing with Belarus. It is therefore not surprising that Ukraine wants to upgrade its infrastructure, accepting the consequences for the time being.
Recently, Ukrainian Railways also announced an increase in track access charges to raise funds for subsequent construction and upgrading projects. Many companies said that this may lead to the reverse transfer of goods to road transportation.
This article was co-authored with Huilin Shi, from RailFreight.cn.