Where trucks stop, trains continue on the Poland-Ukraine border
There are several routes that connect Europe to Ukraine. One such route is the one via Poland, the main transit country to western Europe. Surprisingly, this route is relatively young, but with great potential nevertheless. It could be the new transit route on the New Silk Road.
Global Ocean Link (GOL) has realised the potential all too well, and is directing all focus to the border crossing at Mostyska II. The cross-border terminal has plenty of capacity to facilitate train traffic destined for Ukraine, as well as transit traffic. “We are aiming for two-three trains per week”, says Vladimir Huz, Associated Partner of the company.
Huz is a speaker at the European Silk Road Summit 2020, in which the route via Ukraine is a central topic. In a short documentary, several experts comment on the various options of train traffic to and through Ukraine. Huz explains the potential of this particular route, which for now is used as a connection between Poland and Ukraine only.
First six months
Together with PCC Intermodal, the Odessa-based logistics firm set up a regular direct rail connection between Poland and Ukraine this April. Since then, more than 20 trains in both directions have been launched. “We expected more, but COVID-19 has had a significant impact on trade between Ukraine and European Union”, says Huz.
Trading volumes decreased by 20 per cent compared to 2019, he explains. Moreover, trucking prices dropped down significantly, while it is the road that offers opportunities for new customers. Considering these circumstances, the results so far are not bad, he continues.
Advantages over road
According to the rail specialist, rail freight has a lot to offer where road has some serious limitations on this particular stretch. For one, there are a lot of queues at the Polish-Ukranian border. “It could take an additional 3-4 days to drive a truck across the border, doubling the transit time for road. On the other hand, there are no queues for the rail connection.”
Moreover, the number of truck journeys carried out depends on the number of permits granted by the respective governments, and this number is never meeting the actual demand. “The second half of each year, there is a serious problem with the availability of transit permissions for regular trucks. In this period, prices for truck delivery are rising 1,5-2 times. If train connections are used instead, these prices could be stabilised for a longer period of time and there is no need for permission control.”
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In Mostyska II, a weekly train arrives from Poland. From this terminal, the cargo is distributed to other places in Ukraine: to the west (Khmelnytskyi), central Ukraine (Kyiv, Vinnytsia) and the east (Dnipro, Kharkiv).
For now we are delivering cargo only to or from Ukraine, as a final destination. However, at Mostyska II we have enough infrastructure facilities to facilitate transit cargo too. We hope these transit volumes will soon come to Ukraine”, Huz says.
It is not a far-fetched idea at all. For a while, the transit route via Ukraine has been on the agenda of many operators. In the last few years, the assumption that this route is unreliable or subject to political unrest, is being refuted. Many test journeys have been carried out, but not many have chosen the Poland-Ukraine border for traffic between Europe and China.
The more common routes are via Slovakia and Hungary at the moment. These are very interesting options, which we are considering as well. We are planning to develop such route mid-2021, but we want to stabilise the Poland-Ukraine route first.”
Between Poland and Ukraine, there are three big border crossings: Izov, Mostyska II and Yahotyn. “Mostyska II is the only cross-border point which properly facilitates container traffic. Izov and Yahotyn do not have sufficient infrastructure facilities.
“For now we are looking for partners to develop Mostyska II properly in 2021. For example, we want to rebuild a direct road to the container terminal in Mostyska II. This should deliver containers directly from Mostyska II to the nearest locations.”
On the longer term, the route should definitely be part of the New Silk Road, he concludes. It is a big opportunity for us as a country. Ukraine could play a big role in this. Almost all volumes are now going via Belarus. In Ukraine we have decent infrastructure facilities and comparable prices for gauge transshipment. I hope the main rail operators will soon start running their New Silk Road services via Ukraine.”
Do you want to hear more from Vladimir Huz, or see the arrival of a train from Poland in Mostyska II? The documentary will be shown at the European Silk Road Summit 2020. You can register for this event via the website.