Ukraine wants to cooperate with Spain to integrate on EU rail network
One of the main issues with rail freight between Ukraine and the rest of Europe is the difference in gauge. A similar issue occurs on the other side of the continent, with Spain and Portugal operating on the Iberian gauge (1600mm). Ukrainian Railways (UZ) wants to collaborate with Spain to develop a variable track width system to make the integration on the EU network more seamless.
UZ”s Chairman of the Board, Evgeny Lyashchenko, met with a delegation from the Spanish government led by Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Investments Siana Mendes on 18 July. Spain’s experience can be useful to UZ because, as the company pointed out, Spain has been building a parallel network equipped with the standard gauge over the past three decades.
During the meeting, the Spanish delegation showed how the country’s infrastructure manager Adif and Renfe, the state-owned railway company. As UZ mentioned, the parties discussed “the launch of a pilot project in cooperation between Spanish and Ukrainian companies”. Implementing a variable track width system would allow Ukrainian rolling stock to run on the European network without transferring cargo into standard gauge wagons.
Not only variable track width systems
Implementing variable track width systems was not the only focus of the meeting between UZ and the Spanish government. UZ claimed to be interested in “modern engineering solutions for the restoration of railway power networks and ensuring a stable supply of electricity”, as Lyashchenko underlined. UZ is also exploring the possibility of collaborating with Spain when it comes to regulatory and legal requirements, high-speed passenger transportation, and the purchase of track superstructure.
How do variable track width systems work?
Variable track width systems allow trains to travel across a break of gauge. In order to do this, trains must have special bogies equipped with variable gauge wheelsets containing a variable gauge axle. The transition from one gauge to another is possible through gauge-changing facilities, where rail tracks become wider or narrower. The wagons are then detached from the locomotive, moved along the gauge-changing tracks, and then attached to a new locomotive for the rest of the journey. Thanks to the special bogies, the wheels of the wagons can be unlocked and shifted according to the needs and then re-locked. Spain can count on various gauge changers on the border with France, for example. It needs to be mentioned that gauge changers are currently much more common for passenger trains than for freight ones.