SUW2000 variable gauge syste

Ukraine’s rail link to the west is EU’s top priority

SUW2000 variable gauge system at Mostyska railway station, source:

The rail transportation links from Ukraine to Europe are now more important than ever. These links are not only a channel of refugee for those fleeing the country, but also the most important channel for Ukrainian export. This export is essential for global food security, as well as the economy of Ukraine itself.

This was emphasised by Kristian Schmidt, director of Land Transport at the European Commission in a live interview at the RailFreight Summit Special Edition yesterday. Yes, the rail freight links between Europe and China are very important, but the rail freight links to Ukraine is at the moment my top priority”, he said to the international audience.

“Ukraine is also an important partner of the EU. It is an important player in global food security, as they provide large proportions of grain and cereals. The EU has every interest in keeping trade going. So I would also like to address the audience by saying that we should strengthen the rail and road haulage links to Ukraine, in order to keep the lifelines running.”

The breadbasket of Europe

Ukraine was the world’s fourth largest grain exporter in the world in 2020-2021, Russia ranks third. Together, the countries account for almost 30 pe rcent of global wheat exports, almost 20 percent of corn exports, and more than 80 per cent of the world supply of sunflower oil.

However, most of this export was taking place via seashipping, and the Black Sea ports have been blocked since the start of the war. Railways are only accounting for a fraction of this transport.

Ukrainian Railways

Ukrainian Railways has earlier called on private companies to invest and build rail freight terminals in the country’s western territories. The company offers the railway infrastructure to boost rail freight transport to and from the west and central Europe since it claims that rail will be the most reliable transport mode even after the war ends.

“In peacetime, the railway was the main artery of the economy. During the war, we became a pillar of security. Therefore, we need to build infrastructure for the development of exports and imports across the western borders”, commented Alexander Kamyshin, chairman of the board of Ukrainian Railways earlier. Together with the Ministry of Economy, it has offered private businesses to build terminals at the junctions with Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.

Ukraine needs to stand on its own feet

Just as important as the export of grain is to the global food security, it is for the economic security of Ukraine, explains Schmidt. “If they cannot empty their silos, they cannot continue the export and the supply chain gets disrupted. This will have a huge impact on the local economy, and this is exactly what Putin wants”, he explained during the summit.

“Ukraine needs to stand on its own feet for its reconstruction. We can support them by keeping those transport corridors working, to make sure that the economy will not collapse.”

Watch the interview

You can watch the interview with Kristian Schmidt below.

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Author: Majorie van Leijen

Majorie van Leijen is the editor-in-chief of, the online magazine for rail freight professionals.

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