The Russian attack on Ukraine has significantly changed Poland’s role in trans-Eurasian freight transportation. Before the war, Poland was the gateway with the most heavily frequented border crossing for goods transported by train between the Far East and Europe. Meanwhile however, Poland is forced to redefine its role as part of the Eurasian rail network.
Uncertain future of Malaszewicze
This fundamental change will be a top issue discussed in Warsaw next Wednesday and Thursday (07SEP22 - 08SEP22), at a summit organized by Rotterdam-based publication, RailFreight.com. There, more than 250 local Polish and international rail freight experts will stick their heads together to debate the new cargo rail normal in Eastern Europe. On top of their agenda stands the future of the former core hub Malaszewicze, that has been downgraded to a normal hub on the Eurasian rail corridor. Since Poland’s neighbor Belarus was sanctioned by the EU following the faked national elections and suppression of large parts of the population, the number of freight trains handled at Malaszewicze for gauge change has dropped sharply.
The money flow from Brussels has dried up
Traffic deteriorated further after Russia attacked Ukraine, which has prompted European rail companies to avoid the traditional Trans-Siberian route and bypass Russian territory to the south. Hence, Malaszewicze more or less disappeared from their radar – with grave financial consequences, as Martyna Wilczewska from the Polish Supply Management Leaders Association (PSML) points out in a statement given to RailFreight.com: “This is already visible in that the border crossing of Malaszewice is not receiving funding from the EU as of yet. There was a tender for EU funds where Malaszewicze made a very good case, but the funds were not obtained,” she regrets.
Hupac inaugurates new rail freight terminal
But does this mean that all the signals for the development of Mala are set to stop, since no more EU money is flowing, or significantly less than the lavish sums channeled into Warsaw’s cash in recent years, subsidizing the Polish railway system? This question, among others, will play a central role at the Warsaw summit next week.
Although Malaszewicze’s role as major hub on east-west routes is scaled back, other projects evolve; like the Hupac Terminal at Brwinów, located 15 kilometers southwest of Warsaw. Details of the project will be presented during the on-site inauguration of the traffic hub next Wednesday (07SEP22), followed by speeches of local Polish and EU politicians. After, Hannes Thees, Researcher and Silk Road expert, will explain how the economic and political shock waves created by Russia’s war on Ukraine can be a chance to reinvent the logistics network in Central and Eastern European countries, including international rail freight transportation. This will be followed by a panel discussion with renowned rail freight experts such as Martin Koubek (Metrans), Tabea Klang (DB Cargo Eurasia), Wojtek Grzesick (Transcontainer), and Dmitrij Hasenkampf (RTSB).
Rail improvements need more than money
In the spotlight of the second session on Wednesday, the organizers have placed the question as to how the lacking quality of the rail network in Poland and most eastern European states can best be improved. This needs more than money, it needs visions and precise long-term planning, backed by political support, experts hold.
Thursday, the new rail freight reality in Poland will be discussed with utmost priority. It is expected that experts present fast working concepts for Poland to become a new gateway for Ukrainian rail freight, and how to establish a corridor to the Baltic States to improve the cooperation with Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia. Panelists discussing these issues will be Maciej Cetnerowski (LTG), Kristina Gontier, Port of Klaipeda, Bartlomiej Felczynski, DCT Gdansk, and Dominik Landa of HHLA.
Warsaw will deliver many takeaways
Next on the agenda stands a debate on the “Outlook for the New Silk Road.” Participants are Julija Ščiglaitė (RailGate Europe, Poland branch), Marcin Miecznikowski (Trans East West), Alice Jie (Aigostar Poland), and Robert Kłosiński (DSV Air&Sea).
Before the Warsaw rail freight summit closes its doors, the role of freight terminals and rail technology will be debated. Martin Koubek, Director Silk Road at METRANS, has announced that new terminal plans will be revealed. This is followed by an address of Michał Batko, Head of Asset Management, Manufacturing and Maintenance at DB Cargo Polska. His topic: “Innovations in the rolling stock market and plans for rolling stock investments of DB Cargo Polska.” Finally, Christian Schlegel, Head of Sales & Projects Locomotives Europe, Siemens Mobility, will illustrate, what the terms “Vectron Evolution – Flexibility” mean. Christian Leopold, CEO, CHS Container Group has the last word. His topic is “Shipper-owned container fleet management” and the challenges related to this business.
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