CZ/SK verze

EXCLUSIVE: "We are preparing for the rebuilding of the country at an unseen scale since WWII, and the need for export and import capacity will be enormous," says Kamyshin

EXCLUSIVE: &quote;We are preparing for the rebuilding of the country at an unseen scale since WWII, and the need for export and import capacity will be enormous,&quote; says Kamyshin
photo: Tetyana Dovhan / Ukrzaliznytsia/EXCLUSIVE: "We are preparing for the rebuilding of the country at an unseen scale since WWII, and the need for export and import capacity will be enormous," says Kamyshin
01 / 03 / 2023

A year after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine by Russian troops on February 24, 2022, RAILTARGET spoke with the head of JSC Ukrainian Railways, Oleksandr Kamyshin. We delved into the lessons learned during this time and how Ukrainian Railways continues to operate despite the ongoing crisis, as well as the company's ongoing efforts to expand its network and connections with European countries.

Almost a year has passed since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which forced Ukrainian Railways to operate in difficult, extreme, and dangerous conditions. Compared to the beginning of the war, how are the actions of railway workers and the railway coordinated now during, say, air alerts or emergencies? What have you learned during this time?

The first months of the war were crucial for Ukraine to survive and withstand the attack. We focused on the evacuation of the people from the war zone and managed to take 4 million people to safe areas. 334 thousand tons of humanitarian cargo was transported back - to the war zones and cities under attack. 

Our cargo department works hard to increase import and export operations. Given that seaports are blocked by Russia, we are the main backbone of the Ukrainian economy. The drop in cargo transportation due to the invasion was 50%, but since March, we managed to secure growth of up to 23%. The export transportation was raised by 12% in comparison with 2021. 

We continue to develop passenger transportation — so people can get back to their homes. Since August, 89% of the long-range trains have been on time. Most of the delays were caused by power grid interruptions due to the massive rocket attacks. There are calm no-rocket days, with 98% on time on departure and 98% on arrival. We have to show our people that the country is strong, ready to develop, and ready to support citizens despite the war. 

Of course, it has its cost. 353 railway workers were killed during the war, that include workers that joined the Ukrainian military. However, not a single person refused to go on shift despite the risk. That's why we are called iron people these days.

In your earlier interviews, you mentioned that you and your team were constantly on the road after February 24. Is it still relevant today?

Yes, we were constantly on the road for two main reasons. First – our management team had to understand the real challenges and problems we had to tackle. Being on the place, walking the road on your own feet is key for the fast and right decisions. Secondly, we were at the places where we asked our staff to work. You cannot ask your people to take the risk if you do not demonstrate that you are ready to take the same risk. 

That was critical for the first months of the war. After summer, we spend more time in the office, where safety is comparatively better, despite the constant rocket and drone attacks. But we still travel a lot – on the east and south, where our teams work. We follow our military after occupation — the railway workers are the second after the tanks, restoring the infrastructure on the liberated Ukrainian territories in Kharkiv and Kherson regions.

Ukrainian Railways is continuously expanding its network and connections with European countries. On January 18, you resumed service between the Ukrainian station Rakhiv and Romania's Vala Viseului, which had been unavailable for 17 years, and recently, additional connections between Ukraine's Kharkiv and Kyiv and Poland's Przemysl, Warsaw, and Chełm have been announced. How do you plan to expand your connections shortly? What determines the choice of specific countries and cities for the expansion?

We do understand that the integration into the EU will require bigger capacity both for cargo and passenger transportation. We work on the possibilities to expand all existing routes and crossings with the EU and expect our partners to explore new possibilities. In the recent year, we have done more for the increase of the capacity than in many years before. We are talking about the increase in the hubs and transshipment capacities rather than new standard gauge tracks, which is a long-term project. 

In the recent year, we established new transportation routes with Moldova and Romania and focused on new connections with Poland. Kovel – Izov – State border route is electrified, which will allow an increase in cargo train capacity. Kovel–Yahodyn route restored, will be used as additional important cargo. We expect permission for broad-gauge carriage trips from PKP and hope to get it since the request was sent in August. Rava-Ruska–Hrebenne–State border route is restored, and we are ready to build a comfortable hub that will increase passenger flow from Liviv to Warsaw.

We are preparing for the rebuilding of the country at an unseen scale since the Second World War, and the need for export and import capacity will be enormous. We are ready to provide wheels for that, in close cooperation with the EU partners. After the victory, the range of possibilities for partner projects will be enormous. We invite all businesses to join them.


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