New study: how to unlock the potential of rail freight transport between Poland and Ukraine

The study published by the European Commission and the European Investment Bank in July 2023 suggests developing a backbone of European 1435 mm wide railways on key railway lines between Poland and Ukraine.

This means that ideas about E40 waterway connecting the Baltic and Black seas have become even more redundant.

The study is part of the EU-Ukraine Solidarity Lanes action plan aimed to strengthen the cross-border connections. The experts say that rail development will help Ukraine integrate more quickly into the EU market and accelerate Ukraine’s post-war recovery. 

What is the issue with rail freight transport between EU and Ukraine?

The main problem for transporting freight by train between the EU and Ukraine is the width of the railways. In the EU, most railways are 1435 mm wide, while in Ukraine most railways are 1520 mm wide. This means that in practice, freight from Ukraine needs to be loaded onto different trains and wagons, a costly and time-consuming process.

Ukraine has a large railway network spanning the whole country. Railway freight transport on this network has fallen dramatically since the 2000s, and most of the network was already in disrepair before the war. Hence, there are plenty of investment opportunities on top of the change to 1435 mm width.

Where will the railways be deployed?

The new backbone would include the following railways in Ukraine:

  • Medyka/Mostyska (border with Poland) to Lviv
  • Dorohusk (border with Poland) to Kyiv
  • Lviv to Kyiv
  • Kyiv to Kharkiv and Dnipro
  • Rava Ruska (border with Poland) to Lviv

In the longer term, there is a potential connection planned from Dnipro to the coast of the Black Sea (Odessa) and Sea of Azov (Mariupol). The experts recommend that preparation work on the backbone projects should start as soon as possible.

The backbone is on different railway lines than are currently included in the TEN-T (the EU Transport Roadmap) proposal. That’s why the Ukraine TEN-T railway network may be changed again in the near future.

First steps are already underway

On 28th of August, Polish and Ukrainian railways signed an agreement on joint work on the development of passenger and freight rail transport between the countries to increase the export-import potential. This is the first agreement of this level between the railways of the two countries since 1994.

Different funds are allocating money for development of Ukrainian railway infrastructure. For the first time the EU has allocated Connecting Europe Facility (CEF) funding to Ukraine for the development of border crossings with Poland, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary. The European Investment Bank is providing Ukrainian railways with 100 million euros for the restoration and modernization of infrastructure and development of freight transport.

Rail is a good priority over E40 waterway

Save Polesia has consistently been advocating for development of the rail network in Poland and Ukraine, as this would be a much more sustainable investment than investment in the devastating E40 waterway. A state-of-the-art railway network with new trains and infrastructure can easily replace inland navigation on the Dnipro in Ukraine.

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*Top image: Pixabay