Polish truckers extend blockade on Ukrainian border, can rail help with shortages?
Polish truckers have been blockading border crossings with Ukraine for at least twenty days, protesting against an alleged loss of business due to the increased influx of Ukrainian drivers and companies in Poland. According to reports, the situation results in major shortages in Ukraine and affects the transport of fuels and humanitarian aid, among other things. Rail could alleviate the crisis; however, there seems to be slow progress in this direction.
The blockade has affected three major border crossings between the two countries, and recently, it was extended to Medyka. Polish truckers block the border crossings with the help of Polish farmers who have made their intentions towards their Ukrainian counterparts clear long ago.
Some of the latest reports on the topic spoke of thousands of trucks piling up on the borders between the two countries, with Ukrainian drivers suffering from low temperatures while stuck and idle. Ukrainian authorities claim that two of them have died due to the conditions. For Ukraine, the situation is already getting out of hand, so state officials have requested the EU to intervene and set up a monitoring group to take control of the problem.
Rail to tackle shortages?
The blockade was initiated on 6 November, with Polish truck drivers increasingly intensifying it. The route through Poland is probably the most important for Ukraine in terms of both road and rail transport since it is its primary gateway to Central and Western European markets. The blockade affects not only Ukrainian exports, which are facing significant bottlenecks currently, but also imports, with the Eastern European country already facing increasing shortages of critical products.
One key element of the blockade is that it hinders humanitarian aid from reaching Ukraine. Moreover, the Ukrainian market is already facing shortages in LPG fuels, with petrol stations seeing their tank reservoirs emptying as winter advances. LPG is crucial for warming households and mobility, while its shortage could impact industrial and agricultural production.
Rail could become a sufficient solution to tackling this problem. However, rail logistics between Poland and Ukraine have become notorious for their complexity, which prevents companies from considering it as an immediate logistical solution.
PKP Cargo’s spokesperson, Krzysztof Losz, explained to Reuters that the company sees the potential of taking over the carriage of LPG fuel to Ukraine. Nevertheless, he underlined that customers have not yet expressed interest in such a solution. In fact, shifting fuel volumes from trucks to rail is not currently considered the most efficient solution, considering the persisting shortages of specialised wagons and track gauge changes.